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Integration of genomics in surveillance and risk assessment for outbreak investigation

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Wiley Online Library

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Keeping food safe is a challenge that needs continuous surveillance for the sake of consumers’ health. The main issue when a food‐borne pathogen outbreak occurs is represented by the identification of the source(s) of contamination. Delivering this information in a timely manner helps to control the problem, with positive outcomes for everyone, especially for the consumers, whose health is in this way preserved, and for the stakeholders involved in food production and distribution, who could face enormous economic losses if recalls or legal issues occur. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a tool recently implemented for the characterisation of isolates and the study of outbreaks because of its higher efficiency and faster results, when compared to traditional typing methods. Lower sequencing costs and the development of many bioinformatic tools helped its spread, and much more attention has been given to its use for outbreak investigation. It is important to reach a certain level of standardisation, though, for ensuring result reproducibility and interoperability. Moreover, nowadays it is possible, if not mandatory for Open Science Practices, to share WGS data in publicly available databases, where raw reads, assembled genomes and their corresponding metadata can be easily found and downloaded. The scope of this Fellowship was to provide the Fellow all the training necessary for successfully integrating genomics to surveillance and risk assessment of food‐borne pathogens from farm to fork.