Research – Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) on Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) associated with meat and dairy products


Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are an important cause of food-borne disease. Infections can result in a wide range of disease symptoms from mild intestinal discomfort and hemorrhagic diarrhea to severe conditions including haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), end-stage renal disease and death. In its report on the global burden of food-borne disease, WHO estimated that in 2010 food-borne STEC caused more than 1.2 million illnesses, 128 deaths, and nearly 13 000 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) (WHO, 2015). The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) has highlighted the importance of STEC in foods since its 32nd Session in 1999, when it prioritized their presence in beef and sprouts as significant public health problems in Member countries (FAO and WHO, 2000). Following a request from the 47th Session in November 2015 (FAO and WHO, 2016), the FAO and WHO published the report Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and food: attribution, characterization and monitoring in 2018 (FAO and WHO, 2018). As part of the 50th session of CCFH in November 2018, the FAO/WHO further updated the committee with additional information on STEC that was subsequently published in the report Attributing illness caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) to specific foods (FAO and WHO, 2019a). The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) at the 42nd Session, July 2019, approved new work on the development of guidelines for the control of STEC in beef, raw milk and cheese produced from raw milk, leafy greens and sprouts (FAO and WHO, 2019b). To support this work, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli(STEC) associated with Meat and Dairy Products was convened virtually from 1 to 26 June 2020 to review relevant measures for pre- and post-harvest control of STEC in animals and foods of animal origins. The scientific literature describing physical, chemical and biological control measures (and their combinations) against STEC during primary production, processing and post-processing of raw meat, raw milk and raw milk cheeses was reviewed. The efficacy and utility of reported control measures were scored as high, medium or low, based on expert opinion informed by systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses, when available.

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