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Call for experts - WHO initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases

Deadline: 31 October 2020


Foodborne diseases are a major cause of human morbidity and mortality. According to the global estimates from the WHO Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG 2007-2015), foodborne diseases caused 600 million illnesses, 420,000 deaths, and 33 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in 2010. Foodborne diseases disproportionately adversely impact children. According to the WHO FERG estimates, although children <5 years of age represent only 9% of the global population, 40% of the foodborne disease burden is borne by children in this age group. There are also considerable differences in the burden of foodborne diseases among sub-regions with the highest burden of per population observed in Africa.

The First International Conference on Food Safety (Addis Ababa, 12–13 February 2019) and the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade (Geneva, 23–24 April 2019) reviewed the status of food safety globally and identified new and emerging challenges. One of such challenges highlighted in these conferences was the importance of improving the evidence base for food safety decisions through systematic monitoring of foodborne hazards, surveillance of foodborne diseases, and an estimation of the public health and economic burden of foodborne diseases.2

At 146th Session of the WHO Executive Board meeting held on 3-8 February 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Board discussed food safety under the agenda item 19, “Accelerating efforts on food safety” (EB146/25) and recommended the adoption of a resolution on “Strengthening efforts on food safety”(WHA73.5). The Seventy-third World Health Assembly adopted this resolution, which requests  WHO to monitor regularly, and to report to Member States on, the global burden of foodborne diseases at national, regional and international levels, and in particular to prepare, by 2025, a new report on the global burden of foodborne diseases with up-to-date estimates of global foodborne disease incidence, mortality and disease burden in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

Based on the above, high interests from scientific communities, and WHO’s new vision to show a measurable impact in countries, WHO plans to update the global burden of foodborne diseases, and aims to deliver a second global report by 2025

Objective of the call

The objective of the call is to identify qualified experts who are willing to serve as a member of the advisory group, “Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG)”, for an initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases. Terms of reference of the group are to: 

  • Advise WHO on the methodology to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases
  • Review epidemiological data on foodborne disease burden
  • Identify technical gaps and priorities for research activities
  • Make recommendations to WHO on the establishment of task forces and other means through which scientific and technical matters are addressed
  • Advise WHO on the development of and the methodology to monitor food safety-related indicator(s) 

Successful candidates should meet most or all of the following qualifications: 

  • Hold an advanced university degree(s) in epidemiology, data science, health or bio-statistics, food science, risk assessment of chemicals or pathogens, knowledge translation;
  • Scientific excellence evidenced by publications in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Professional experience in burden3 of disease study in foodborne diseases, infectious diseases, or any other diseases either at sub-national, national, regional or global level;
  • Practical experiences in epidemiological modelling;
  • Ability to converse in and document in English;
  • Ability to prepare documents and spreadsheets in electronic format;
  • Ability to work with people from different backgrounds, as well as with scientists from various disciplines.


Interested applicants are invited to fill out the online application form and submit a CV (no more than 10 pages in A4 format), filled Declaration of Interest (DoI), and a list of publications, no later than 31 October 2020 (CET). An applicant shall be made available by his or her employer for engaging in this WHO work and be released for an international meeting at least once a year and quarterly teleconferences. 

Criteria and process for selection of experts

The criteria for the selection of experts are the basic and essential qualifications together with the proven competence and expertise in the various areas as described above. The curriculum vitae of the applicants will be reviewed on the basis of the criteria listed above by a selection panel of three or more individuals including at least one independent, internationally recognized expert appointed by WHO. The purpose of the panel review is to determine whether the applicants meet all the essential requirements. The highly qualified individuals selected from the applicants will be used by WHO to invite experts to meetings and/or expert consultations. In selecting experts consideration will also be given, in addition to scientific and technical excellence, diversity and complementarities of scientific backgrounds, representation from all geographic regions including developing and developed countries as well as gender. 

Appointment of experts

Experts will be selected in their individual capacity on the basis of their expert knowledge to give advice on specific topics. The term "personal capacity" means that the expert is expressly expected to serve in his/her capacity as an independent expert rather than a representative of his or her employer. The views of the independent expert would not necessarily be reflective of any views and positions of his or her employer. All experts will be required to complete a Declarations of Interest form before participation in any expert meetings can be confirmed.

Experts do not receive any remuneration from the Organization. However, when attending meetings by invitation of WHO, they shall be entitled, in accordance with the administrative regulations of the Organization, to reimbursement of travelling expenses and to a daily living allowance during such meetings.

Applications should be submitted by 31 October 2020 to:

WHO focal point

Yuki Minato
WHO secretariat for the initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases
Department of Nutrition and Food Safety
World Health Organization 

Call for experts - WHO initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases

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