GLOBAL – The World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Nutrition and Food Safety has launched an initiative to assess the global burden of foodborne diseases by 2025.

In their efforts to gather comprehensive data, WHO is seeking support from independent consultants or groups of experts with relevant expertise to conduct systematic reviews on the disease burdens associated with four toxic heavy metals.

This initiative aims to enhance understanding of the health impacts caused by dietary exposure to these substances.

WHO has identified four specific conditions for which they are seeking data on disease burdens related to toxic heavy metal exposure through food consumption.

These include chronic kidney disease resulting from dietary exposure to cadmium, intellectual disability caused by dietary exposure to methylmercury, lung, bladder, and skin cancer resulting from dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic, and intellectual disability and cardiovascular diseases caused by dietary exposure to lead.

The previous iteration of WHO’s technical advisory group, known as the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group for 2007–2015 (FERG1), estimated the global burden of diseases associated with three chemical hazards and toxins.

Based on available evidence, FERG1 generated global estimates for specific health conditions caused by cadmium, methylmercury, inorganic arsenic, and lead. These estimates were later published in scientific literature using a risk assessment approach.

FERG2 work plan and priorities

Under the newly established Chemicals and Toxins Taskforce (CTTF) within FERG for 2021–2025 (FERG2), WHO has developed a work plan to prioritize various chemicals and toxins for systematic reviews.

The focus is on identifying the global burden associated with specific hazards and determining the extent to which diseases related to these hazards are caused by contaminated food.

The disease burdens associated with cadmium, methylmercury, inorganic arsenic, and lead have been prioritized for inclusion in the global estimates for 2025.

To fulfill their objectives, WHO is inviting independent consultants or expert groups to express their interest and submit proposals for conducting systematic reviews.

The experts should possess the necessary expertise to work independently while also maintaining regular interaction and collaboration with the WHO team and external technical experts. The submission deadline for expressions of interest is July 21, 2023.

Enhancing knowledge for improved public health

By estimating the global burden of foodborne diseases associated with toxic heavy metals, WHO aims to enhance knowledge and understanding of the health risks posed by these substances.

This initiative will contribute to evidence-based decision-making and enable the development of effective strategies for mitigating the adverse effects of contaminated food on public health.

Independent experts have an opportunity to play a vital role in advancing global understanding of foodborne disease burdens and supporting WHO’s efforts in this crucial area.

WHO’s initiative aligns with ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of food and protect public health worldwide.

Prioritizing research and analysis of toxic heavy metals in food will enable WHO to address the potential risks associated with these contaminants and ultimately contribute to improved food safety standards globally.

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