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Toxoplasma advice request raises questions at FSAI Scientific Committee meeting

The issue was raised at the April meeting of the FSAI Scientific Committee, where according to the minutes, members raised concerns that there was not enough information regarding toxoplasma gondii and that the biological safety sub-committee workload was currently high.

The Scientific Committee noted that the sub-committee was currently engaged in developing its future work plan and “risk-ranking” the work that it needed to undertake.

“A draft request for advice on toxoplasma was tabled for consideration by the Scientific Committee,” a FSAI spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).

“However, the FSAI was asked to discuss it further with parasite experts in the area to see how much data is available to conduct a risk assessment in Ireland.

“There was concern in the Scientific Committee that there wasn’t enough information available. They also considered that whilst important, other work in the biological safety sub-committee, particularly the risk-ranking work, would be a higher priority.

“In fact, the risk-ranking work when completed could help to prioritise requests for advice on biological hazards, which would then enable the toxoplasma risk to be placed in the context of other risks for consideration.”

Toxoplasmosis is caused by an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is very common in cat faeces, raw meat, raw vegetables and soil. While the parasite generally replicates in its definitive host, the cat, it is an opportunistic parasite of many other hosts, including humans.

According to the FSAI website, humans infected with toxoplasma gondii are generally asymptomatic carriers.

“But factors such as age and immunocompetence can determine whether an infected host will express disease symptoms. Infection of a pregnant woman can result in abortion or congenital malformation of the foetus, while newborns are also particularly vulnerable,” reads the FSAI website.

“Infection may be acquired through the consumption of undercooked meat, food or water contaminated with cat faeces, or from handling contaminated soil or cat litter trays.”

Separately at the same April meeting, members of the Scientific Committee noted that recent FSAI statements on fluoride and the cooking of burgers had been published on the FSAI website, but that “it was agreed that in future the Scientific Committee will be notified in advance of such publications”.

 “There was no unhappiness whatsoever [on the part of Scientific Committee members],” a FSAI spokesperson told MI

“The Scientific Committee members just wanted to be kept abreast on the timing of the release of reports, which can be some months after sign-off due to formatting and proofreading. This is a matter of good practice and is something we undertook to do in future.”

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