August 2019: Publication WHO report 'Microplastics in drinking-water'

On 22 August 2019, the World Health Organization published the report 'Microplastics in drinking-water' as a first effort to examine the potential human health risks associated with exposure to microplastics in the environment.

The WHO Collaborating Center Risk Assessment on Pathogens from Food and Water contributed to this report, specifically to the revision of the WHO Guidelines on Drinking-water Quality: Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 4th edition, incorporating the 1st addendum.  Read more in this news message: WHO calls for more research into microplastics and a crackdown on plastic pollution.

July 2019: WHO CC moderator of side-event Burden of Foodborne Diseases, 42nd Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting (CAC42)

Dr Joke van der Giessen of the WHO CC (RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment ) moderated the CAC42 side-event Burden of Foodborne Diseases held 11 July in Geneva. Panellists were Dr Brecht Devleeschhouwer, Dr Peter Hoejskov and Dr Scott Crerar. One hundred participants joined the side event. This event addressed practical questions concerning the prerequisites, requirements and actual methodologies related to estimating the burden at the national level. Foodborne disease is one of the most prevalent, yet underreported classes of illnesses in the world, with annually an estimated 1 in 10 people affected. The global burden of foodborne disease report published by WHO in 2015 was the first of its kind on such an expansive global scale and estimated that up to 33 million healthy life years are lost per year due to foodborne disease. The importance of developing national estimates of foodborne diseases has been highlighted elsewhere, but many questions remain as to how exactly to calculate the burden. 

Click here for Dr Joke van der Giessen presentation.

July 2019: Training on Climate Resilient Water Safety Plans by RIVM for the Pampanga Water Districts in the Philippines

From 1 – 10 July 2019, Harold van den Berg and Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a tailor-made training on climate-resilient Water Safety Plans (WSP) for the Pampanga Water Districts. This training was part of the collaboration between VEI and Philippine Association of Water Districts, which stresses that the implementation of WSP is important to improve the water quality in the Pampanga region.

With the implementation of WSP being legally required in the Philippines, this training workshop aimed at:

  • sensitising personnel from the Water Districts for WSP issues and motivate them to support and contribute to the process of WSP implementation.
  • revising and reviewing existing WSPs of the Water Districts  based on the training, field visits and WSP rating from the Local Water Utility Administration (LWUA)
  • learning from each other by sharing experiences.
Participants training on climate resililent water safety plans


In total, 33 participants from 12 Water Districts participated in the training workshop held at Angeles City Water from 1 – 5 July.  

Through interactive lectures and exercises the WSP training included all the 11 steps described by the WHO.  In addition, a field visit was conducted to highlight the importance of verifying existing data on the system description and identification of risks. This provided a good opportunity for the Water Districts to have a look at a similar water supply system.

After the training workshop, Harold and Fabio visited all 12 Water Districts (8 – 10 July) to discuss the steps to be taken for implementing or modifying the WSP for their water supply.

The presence of the General Managers of the water districts at the training workshop highlighted the commitment and eagerness from the water districts to participate and learn from this training on WSP. The training and visits were very successful as participants have a better understanding of what is needed to design and implement a WSP as well as its importance in the improvement of water quality.

Later this year a follow up with the participating water districts will take place.

May 2019: Water Safety Planning Training Bosnia and Herzegovina

The WHO EURO and WHO Country office of Bosnia and Herzegovina organised a three day introductory workshop on Water Safety Planning for policy makers and drinking water production managers and professionals. The WHO invited Harold van den Berg from the WHO CC to give a presentation on the Risk Assessment and Risk Management methods and tools applied in the drinking water production sector in the Netherlands.  In total, 28 participants from the two entities Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in the three day workshop. The aim of the workshop was to introduce the participants to the concept of progressive continuous management planning for water safety and invite them to think each step through while sharing mutual experiences. RIVM's Anoek Backx was invited to the workshop and recorded the final discussion and conclusions of the participants: they expressed their interest in further training and support and the willingness to set up water safety plans in their sectors. 

Water Safety Planning Training to Bosnia and Herzegovina

The secretariat of the Protocol on Water and Health will provide support to the governments of both entities to outline a planning for development and implementation of WSP in the relevant sectors in the country, and to indicate needs for further training. Our WHO CC presented a range of related onward training programmes they can provide. The participants agreed on piloting a training of trainers and rolling out further training to individual production plants and producers.

22 March 2019: WHO highlights water safety plans Tajikistan on WorldWaterDay

As a health response towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the introduction of a Water Safety Plan (WSP) for every drinking-water supply. The approach combines established risk-management principles with the prevention-focused operation and monitoring practices. These principles remain the same for large urban suppliers as they do for small rural operators, and they have already been applied in over 80 countries around the world.The national surveillance authorities responsible for drinking-water quality monitoring showed great interest in strengthening their efforts in alignment with WHO recommendations. The staff of the local, regional and national branches of the Sanitary Epidemiological Service were trained in collaboration with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) on risk-based surveillance approaches and the prioritisation of water quality parameters to ensure focused and cost-effective monitoring while protecting health. Read more

October 2018: Training Risk-based Drinking Water Quality Surveillance in Tajikistan

Within the WHO-EURO project Small and safe: scaling-up water safety planning and effective water quality monitoring in rural Tajikistan, Harold van den Berg provided two 2-days training on risk-based drinking water quality surveillance for Sanitary, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SES) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In total, 36 participants from 22 district and 3 regional SES, participated in the training. During the training, the participants learned how to set up and conduct risk-based surveillance for water supplies in the districts. As part of the training, field measurements and sanitary inspections were conducted in water supplies of three villages. Based on the results, we discussed what advice and guidance could be given based on the water quality data and sanitary inspections. 

Six of the participants were identified as a trainer, based on their experiences and participation in previous training on water quality monitoring. The trainers supported the participants with the field measurements and conducting sanitary inspections. In future, the trainers can play an important role in supporting other districts in conducting risk-based surveillance.

July 4th 2018: 41st Codex Alimentarius Commission

RIVM’s Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water was invited to WHO’s side event during the 41st Codex Alimentarius Commission. The side event highlighted the importance of national capacity building efforts for conducting foodborne disease burden estimates. Countries can request WHO to support them in calculating disease burden estimations. RIVM’s  WHO CC  will support WHO in providing capacity building workshops.

May  2018: JEMRA on Water Quality in Food Production and Processing at FAO in Rome

14- 18 May  2018, the JEMRA on Water Quality in Food Production and Processing convened for a second time at the FAO in Rome. The first meeting with  the RIVM WHO CC was in June 2017 and it was then concluded that further guidance needed to be developed to make the information from the water sector better accessible  for the food handling and processing sector, with a focus on fisheries, primary production and reuse and recycling in food processing facilities.

May 2018,  the RIVM WHO CC again played a facilitating role in its interdisciplinary capacity as a bridge-builder between the food and water sector. 


About 20 experts representing high and lower income settings took part in this meeting in Rome, which had two main goals:

  1. To formulate scientific advice with regard to gaps in current guidance on microbial assessments in relation to fisheries, primary production and reuse/recycling.
  2. To develop a decision support tree with regard to water quality and detailing points of contact for these aforementioned sub-categories

The findings will be presented to the Codex Alimentarius Committee for Food Hygiene (CCFH) in November 2018. Dr   Rob de Jonge,  Ir. Lieke Friederichs, Prof.   Ana Maria de Roda Husman of the RIVM's WHO Collaborating Centre are recurring members of this JEMRA expert group.

April 2018: Revision of WHO GDWQ

A small group of microbial experts including from RIVM, gathered from April 16-20, 2018 to further the revision of the 4th edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) kindly hosted by Karl Linden and his group at the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA. The experts determined the next steps in developing the fifth edition of the GDWQ related to microbial aspects. Main topics concerned the microbial fact sheets in Chapter 11 and the microbial treatment tables in Chapter 7 of the WHO GDWQ. The content of the microbial fact sheets was reviewed and also the initial findings from the systematic literature review on selected treatment technologies to inform the update of the microbial treatment tables in the GDWQ including the log reduction values were reviewed. The remaining gaps were identified and agreements made upon a way forward towards the launch of the 5th edition of the WHO GDWQ planned for 2020.


Microbial experts, University of Colorado, Boulder USA


April 2017:  Pan-European Symposium Water and Sanitation Safety Planning and Extreme Weather Events

On April 6 and 7, 2017 the WHO CC on Pathogens in Food and Water hosted a symposium on Water and Sanitation Safety (WSSP) Planning in Extreme Weather Events at RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment   in Bilthoven. The event was co-sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, WHO Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Safe management of water and sanitation.

With contributions from over 15 countries, mainly from the pan-European region, the event meant a kick-off from the work on the safe management of water and sanitation systems within the 2017-2019 programme of work of the Protocol on Water and Health.  The symposium included a number of sessions with topics like impacts from flooding and droughts, including health impacts, sanitation safety planning in urban areas, water safety planning in peri-urban and rural areas, and integrated management solutions for climate adaptative water services planning.

The sessions were introduced by keynote presenters, among which were prof. Barbara Evans, prof. Paul Hunter and prof. Pier Vellinga. The WHO Regional Office for Europe supported two workshops: one on Climate-adaptive Water Safety Planning and one on Sanitation Safety Planning. In an interactive session, the potential linkage between the two, and their potential to provide an integrated management strategy for climate adaptive water management was discussed. The presentations from the symposium can be found on the IWC website

A symposium summary report is available. For more information please send an e-mail to