MAF toxicologist appointed to international committee

Thursday 23 June 2011, 6:23AM

The expertise of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) principal toxicology adviser John Reeve has been recognised with his appointment to an international scientific review committee that determines the toxicity of a range of elements commonly found in our food supply.

John's selection as one of the scientific experts on the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) - which evaluates the safety of food additives, natural toxins, contaminants, and veterinary drug residues - will have substantial benefits to MAF and New Zealand.

"Through John's involvement at JECFA we will have access to the most up-to-date and scientifically relevant thinking in the area of modern toxicology and we can be sure he will have a valuable influence in the discussions of this committee," MAF deputy director-general standards Carol Barnao says.

"It will also give us early notification of any changes which may be relevant to New Zealand as a result of JECFA's work."

JECFA conducts the risk assessments for the Codex Alimentarius, which sets the maximum levels for chemicals in food in international trade. The Codex standards are also used by the World Trade Organization in cases of dispute between trading partners.

Committee members are appointed for a five-year term. The criteria the WHO use to select JECFA members includes that the candidates must be recognised as having demonstrated expertise in the various aspects of toxicology and risk analysis, and be recognised by their scientific peers for that expertise.

JECFA's work programme on contaminants will look at issues such as mercury, cadmium, lead, acrylamide and pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Background information:
John Reeve holds an honours degree in biochemistry from Wellington's Victoria University, and a post graduate degree in toxicology from the University of Surrey in the UK. His 35-year career began at the Ministry of Health where he carried out risk assessments of pesticides and veterinary medicines. Over the years he has continued to work in the area of food safety, working for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and MAF.

Earlier this year John stepped down from the OECD's Working Group on Pesticides after being a member of the New Zealand delegation to the group for 15 years - including the last three years as the group’s chair.