GLOBAL – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is set to host a technical meeting in December centered on the gut microbiome’s role in food safety risk assessment.

The gut microbiome, a dynamic network of trillions of microorganisms symbiotically linked with the host, has garnered increasing attention for its impact on human health.

Its functions extend beyond digestion; it plays a pivotal role in metabolizing compounds, producing essential metabolites like vitamins and amino acids, and offering immune system support. Its composition is highly responsive to stressors and environmental factors, making it a dynamic aspect of human health influenced by various elements.

Understanding how dietary chemicals influence the gut microbiome and, consequently, human health is a complex but crucial endeavor.

The meeting aims to explore the feasibility and readiness of incorporating microbiome data into food safety risk assessment. This knowledge can help identify relevant microbiome endpoints crucial for evaluating the impact of dietary chemicals.

From December 12–14, 2023, FAO will assemble a diverse group of experts, bringing together food safety risk assessors and microbiome specialists.

The collaborative effort seeks to harness collective knowledge and insights to pave the way for integrating microbiome data into the realm of food safety risk assessment.

Building on prior research, FAO published results in August 2023 from an extensive literature review. The review focused on the effects of three pervasive chemical food contaminants—pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, and microplastics—on the human gut microbiome.

The majority of rodent studies included in the FAO’s analysis of the literature on the impact of pesticide residues on the gut microbiome showed changes to the animals’ homeostasis and gut flora, with no evidence of a causal relationship. Microbial disruptions were also seen in a few in vitro investigations.

It also discovered that there is a dearth of research on the effects of persistent exposure to low-level concentrations of veterinary medication residues on the gut flora.

The majority of research has been done in vitro, and thus heavily relies on conventional bacterial cultures of particular or representative gut bacterial species.

This groundwork sets the stage for a more nuanced exploration during the upcoming technical meeting.

As FAO takes the lead in unraveling the intricate relationship between the gut microbiome and food safety, the December meeting holds promise for advancing the incorporation of microbiome data into risk assessment practices, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of the factors shaping human health through dietary interactions.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.