November 2021: JEMRA report - Safety and quality of water used with fresh fruits and vegetables

 The FAO and WHO report ‘Safety and quality of water used with fresh fruits and vegetables' has been published. It is a publication by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA), an international scientific expert group that the RIVM’s WHO CC is a member of. Dr Doctor (Doctor ) Rob de Jonge and Prof. Ana Maria de Roda Husman chaired the panel and contributed to the JEMRA report with their time and expert advice on water quality and risk assessment in food and water. 

Water is used for a variety of purposes in all production and processing steps of fresh fruit and vegetables, from the growing stage up to the point of consumption. But even if this water is conventionally treated and disinfected, it may still contain contaminants. At the 48th session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene, it was determined that a risk-based approach appropriate to the national or local production context is needed for the assessment of potential risks associated with a specific water source or supply. This would enable the appropriate risk mitigation strategies. 

In response, the FAO, WHO and JEMRA members commenced work on this subject. The panel developed clear and practical guidance on appropriate and fit-for-purpose microbiological criteria and parameters for water when used with fresh fruit and vegetables. Advice and explanations in the report enable sound decision making when applying the concept of fit-for-purpose water for use in the pre-and post-harvest production of fresh fruit and vegetables. The report is an output of several years of progress on the subject. 

September 2021: workshop Integrated Water and Sanitation Safety Planning

On 21-23 September 2021, RIVM held a hybrid training workshop on Integrated Water and Sanitation Safety Planning (iWSSP) in relation to small water and sanitation systems in rural communities in Serbia. The workshop brought together various stakeholders for an in-depth discussion on all aspects of iWSSP. The workshop took place under the project iWSSP in small supplies in Serbia and was delivered to build capacity on iWSSP.  Participants were from water and sanitation sector organisations, including water utility companies, institutes of public health, and government ministries.

The training workshop helps develop a systematic approach to water and sanitation safety planning at pilot sites that will implement iWSSP. The objective of the training workshop was to train participants about the concept of iWSSP and how to implement this approach at the pilot sites. Through roundtable discussions, presentations, practical case studies and exercises, the workshop fostered exchanges on water and sanitation risk analysis, allowing participants to share experiences and best practices. Participants also benefited from a number of tailored documents and forms, which offered an opportunity to interact with trainers to help make resources derived from global WHO expertise relevant for the rural Serbian context.

Presentations, learning materials and additional resources were made available to all participants. These materials will be used to implement iWSSP in the three pilot sites, small systems located in rural Serbia. Participants were very content with the training workshop and eager to start iWSSP implementation at the pilot sites.

This project is funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry’s Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) for environmental protection in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and other countries neighbouring the European Union. It is supervised by the German Environment Agency (UBA).

July 2021: Article on microbial water quality in Mozambique

Drinking unsafe water increases exposure to pathogens, which can result in waterborne diseases, such as cholera, gastroenteritis or hepatitis E. Numerous countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America practice intermittent drinking water supply as a normal operational strategy because water supply companies are not able to supply water continuously and sustain a positive operating pressure within the distribution network. This is also due to high levels of leakage in distribution networks that can also contribute to the recontamination of treated water. Improving access to clean drinking water and good sanitation services is the subject of continuing work and research by the RIVM’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water.

In Mozambique, intermittent drinking water supply is mainly practised in cities and small towns and results in frequent microbial contamination of the supplied drinking water posing a health risk to consumers. Increased disinfectant dosage improves compliance with microbial water quality standards preventing possible health risks. This was shown in the study titled “Effect of operational strategies on microbial water quality in small scale intermittent water supply systems: The case of Moamba, Mozambique”, carried out by the RIVM’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and Collins Ltd in Mozambique. The aim of the study was to understand the effect of increased disinfectant dosage, number and duration of supply cycles, and first-flush on drinking water quality of an intermittent drinking water supply system in Mozambique.

The study showed that enhanced water quality monitoring improves operational strategies and importantly, this helps to safeguard the microbial water quality. It was identified that increasing the chlorine dosage at the water treatment plant ensured good microbiological drinking water quality, but that changing the number of supply cycles had no such effect. It was also found that, contrary to published literature, the effect of first-flush on the microbiological water quality was not statistically significant. Interestingly, the study revealed that despite purification and disinfection of the water at the treatment plant, possible recontamination of supplied water could occur in the distribution system in part due to recontamination along the distribution chain, or unsafe hygienic practices at the household level. It is important to understand the dynamics of Intermittent drinking water supply systems to help reduce preventable health threats.

The study was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Director-General for International Cooperation IHE Delft Programmatic Cooperation 2016–2020 (DUPC2) through project SMALL: water supply and sanitation in small towns.

7 June 2021: WHO handbook 'Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases'

A new WHO handbook entitled Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases: A practical handbook for countries was published on 7 June. The handbook was developed with assistance from Lucie Vermeulen and Joke van der Giessen, two scientists at RIVM. It provides guidance for countries to assess the causes, magnitude and distribution of foodborne diseases and identify food safety system needs and data gaps to strengthen national infrastructure to protect people’s health. It was part of a WHO effort to step up actions to improve food safety and protect people from foodborne diseases worldwide. RIVM’s contribution to the development of the new handbook highlights our international standing as a WHO Collaborating Center and the expertise of our scientists in food and water safety. 

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “WHO’s new handbook will help countries to collect and analyze data to inform sustained investments in food safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the intimate links between the health of humans, animals and the planet that sustains us. WHO will continue to work with partners with a One Health approach to keep communities safe from foodborne disease.”

Read more in this news WHO steps up action to improve food safety and protect people from disease

29 -31 March 2021: Global Workshop on building climate-resilience

A joint global workshop on building climate resilience through improving water management and sanitation at national and transboundary levels was organised by the UNECE-WHO Regional Office for Europe Protocol on Water and Health and the Water Convention serviced by UNECE.  RIVM's Harold van den Berg attended. Presentations, conclusions and decisions from the 3-day workshop are available on the UNECE website

22 March 2021: World Water Day

World Water Day, an annual United Nations observance, raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living globally without access to safe water. The core focus is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG Sustainable Development Goal (Sustainable Development Goal )) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

What is the impact of COVID-19 on water resource management? Clean and safe water is essential to containing the spread of COVID-19, as well as other infectious diseases. This was the theme of a broadcast organised in France by its largest public water union SEDIF. RIVM was invited to provide public health perspectives in the live broadcast for the Club for the World's Premier Water Services, which is an international group of water services from all continents across the world. 

Ana Maria de Roda Husman and Jerome Lock-Wah-Hoon joined the broadcast in round-table discussions on the health challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as how public services and water suppliers can organise, manage consumer fears, and prepare for the next pandemic. RIVM’s WHO Collaborating Centre provided a specialist point of view to the broadcast and a global vision that broadened the discussion. Representatives from 14 countries around the world were also present to share their field experience.

3 March 2021: Webinar The Integrated global surveillance on ESBL-producing Escherichia coli using a "One Health" approach.

On 3 March, WHO organised a webinar providing an overview of the Tricycle protocol.  Read the news New WHO protocol for integrated One Health surveillance of antibiotic resistance: the Tricycle protocol.