Tim Harwood selected to join FAO/WHO expert committee

27 April 2023

Two NZFSSRC scientists join FAO/WHO expert committee

Deputy Director of the Centre, Tim Harwood, is one of the latest scientists associated with the Centre to be selected to serve on a FAO/WHO expert committee, in this case the roster of the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Along with the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA), JECFA carries out evaluation of food safety issues at an international level. 

“Tim says JECFA is a bit of a misnomer, as this Committee also evaluates contaminants and residues of veterinary drugs in food”

Tim was also part of a one-off international workshop on Ciguatera poison – a marine toxin of increasing concern.  As luck would have it, the FAO Rome headquarters are right by the Circus Maximus and within morning coffee distance of the Colosseum.  However the intense timetable did not allow for much sightseeing.  Tim says “The meeting was a chance to meet many of the world’s leading food safety experts and the combination of rigorous technical discussions, tight time frames and social interactions made for a memorable experience.”

Peter Cressey from ESR was at the 2018 Ciguatera workshop with Tim.  He is a serial contributor to FAO/WHO committees (JECFA and JMPR – dietary exposure assessment). Peter says the activities of the committees involve several months of preparatory work, culminating in a two-week face-to-face meeting (COVID-19 permitting), with meetings alternating between the offices of the two secretariat organisations: FAO (Rome) and WHO (Geneva).

Other New Zealanders currently or recently involved with the expert committees include Peter van der Logt (MPI, JEMRA), Anne-Marie Perchec-Merien (MPI, JEMRA), Dave Lunn (MPI, recently retired, JMPR), Carlos Campos (Cawthron Institute, JEMRA), Dorothy-Jean McCoubrey (Dorothy-Jean and Associated, JEMRA) and Andrew Pearson (Tonkin & Taylor, JECFA – dietary exposure assessment). Roger Cook (MPI, JEMRA) and John Reeve (ex-MPI) have previously been involved with the committees.

Director of the Centre, Libby Harrison, says “All in all, we have reason to be very proud of New Zealand’s strong representation internationally.  It’s a lot of extra work for these scientists.”