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October 17th, 2016

Applications of Whole Genome Sequencing in food safety management

Published by FAO, WHO,

This technical background paper (PDF) published by the FAO in collaboration with the WHO, discusses recent advances in Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) technology that have the potential to play a significant role in the area of food safety. WGS provides rapid identification and characterization of microorganisms, including antimicrobial resistance (AMR), with a level of precision not previously possible. With the rapidly declining cost of this technology, WGS applications in food safety management, including the opportunities it provides for enhanced integration of information from other sectors, such as human and animal health, could contribute to enhanced consumer protection, trade facilitation, nutrition and food security. However, the level of understanding of the concepts and potential use of WGS in food safety management vary among countries. This document aims to take the first steps in addressing these gaps, and providing answers to some of the questions which food safety officials (particularly those in developing countries) need to ask and consider if they are to make informed decisions about WGS and its potential value in food safety management in their context. Four real-life case studies are presented to highlight key benefits and potential drawbacks of WGS in food safety management.

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