Belgian meat processing plant closed for food safety fraud

The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) said on Thursday it has pre-emptively closed the Verbist Group’s meat processing plant and cold store VEVIBA in Bastogne,south Belgium, following a case of fraud on meat labels.

Meanwhile, the food safety watchdog has checked all establishments of the Verbist Group in Belgium.

Investigators found a problem in a slaughterhouse in Bastogne where some labels on frozen meat were removed and replaced by others with more recent dates.

“This can potentially be a risk, especially for people who consume raw meat, although for well-cooked meat the risk is lower,” Philippe Houdart, former spokesperson of FASFC, was quoted by local media as saying in a press release.

Two products have been identified as potentially risky for consumers: minced meat as well as cow tails sold to other companies.

About those assumptions: The problem with models

This is the stuff that friend-of-the-barfblog Don Schaffner gets excited about: Modelling.

Belgian researchers attempted to predict future rates of specific foodborne illnesses to guide policy efforts and came up with this:

Salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and listeriosis are foodborne diseases. We estimated and forecasted the number of cases of these three diseases in Belgium from 2012 to 2020, and calculated the corresponding number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). The salmonellosis time series was fitted with a Bai and Perron two-breakpoint model, while a dynamic linear model was used for campylobacteriosis and a Poisson autoregressive model for listeriosis.

The average monthly number of cases of salmonellosis was 264 (standard deviation (SD): 86) in 2012 and predicted to be 212 (SD: 87) in 2020; campylobacteriosis case numbers were 633 (SD: 81) and 1,081 (SD: 311); listeriosis case numbers were 5 (SD: 2) in 2012 and 6 (SD: 3) in 2014.

After applying correction factors, the estimated DALYs for salmonellosis were 102 (95% uncertainty interval (UI): 8–376) in 2012 and predicted to be 82 (95% UI: 6–310) in 2020; campylobacteriosis DALYs were 1,019 (95% UI: 137–3,181) and 1,736 (95% UI: 178–5,874); listeriosis DALYs were 208 (95% UI: 192–226) in 2012 and 252 (95% UI: 200–307) in 2014.

New actions are needed to reduce the risk of foodborne infection with Campylobacter spp. because campylobacteriosis incidence may almost double through 2020.

Burden of salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and listeriosis: a time series analysis



Maertens de Noordhout et al.

16 sickened with trichinellosis in Belgium from imported wild boar meat

Trichinellosis is a rare parasitic zoonosis caused by Trichinella following ingestion of raw or undercooked meat containing Trichinella larvae. In the past five years, there has been a sharp decrease in human trichinellosis incidence rates in the European Union due to better practices in rearing domestic animals and control measures in slaughterhouses.

wild-boar-recipes-and-uses_homemediumIn November 2014, a large outbreak of trichinellosis occurred in Belgium, related to the consumption of imported wild boar meat. After a swift local public health response, 16 cases were identified and diagnosed with trichinellosis. Of the 16 cases, six were female. The diagnosis was confirmed by serology or the presence of larvae in the patients’ muscle biopsies by histology and/or PCR. The ensuing investigation traced the wild boar meat back to Spain. Several batches of imported wild boar meat were recalled but tested negative.

The public health investigation allowed us to identify clustered undiagnosed cases. Early warning alerts and a coordinated response remain indispensable at a European level.

Outbreak of Trichinellosis related to eating imported wild boar meat, Belgium, 2014

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 37, 15 September 2016, DOI:

P Messiaen, A Forier, S Vanderschueren, C Theunissen, J Nijs, M Van Esbroeck, E Bottieau, K De Schrijver, IC Gyssens, R Cartuyvels, P Dorny, J van der Hilst, D Blockmans

Cross-contamination happens in labs too

This paper describes a case of Salmonella cross-contamination in a food laboratory.

belgian.chocolateIn 2012, chocolate bars shipped from Belgium to the USA were prevented from entering the USA because a Salmonella Rissen strain had been isolated from one of the chocolate bars in a Belgian food laboratory. However, a retrospective study of the Salmonella isolates sent from the laboratory to the Belgian National Reference Laboratory for Salmonella revealed that 7 weeks prior, a Salmonella Rissen strain had been isolated from fish meal in the same food laboratory.

The chocolate bars were not expected to be contaminated with Salmonella because the ingredients all tested negative during the production process. Furthermore, because Salmonella Rissen is only rarely isolated from food, it was hypothesized that the two Salmonella Rissen isolates belonged to the same strain and that the second isolation event in this laboratory was caused by cross-contamination.

To confirm this hypothesis, both Salmonella Rissen isolates were fingerprinted using different molecular techniques. To evaluate the discriminatory power of the techniques used, 11 other Salmonella Rissen isolates from different origins were included in the comparison. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, repetitive element palindromic PCR and three random amplified polymorphic DNA PCR assays were used.

Repetitive element palindromic PCR and random amplified polymorphic DNA PCR assays were insufficiently discriminatory, whereas pulsed-field gel electrophoresis using the combination of two restriction enzymes showed sufficient discrimination to confirm the hypothesis.

Although cross-contamination in food laboratories are rarely reported, cross-contamination can always occur. Laboratories should therefore always be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination, especially when enrichment is used in the microbiological analysis. Furthermore, it is advised that results showing isolates of the same serotype isolated in a short time frame from unrelated food products should be interpreted carefully and should be confirmed with additional strain typing.

Case report of Salmonella cross-contamination in a food laboratory


BMC Research Notes, Volume 9, Number 156, March 2016, Pages 1-4

Rasschaert G, De Reu K, Heyndrickx M, and Herman L

20 toddlers sickened: An emetic Bacillus cereus outbreak in a kindergarten

 Bacillus cereus is a ubiquitous spore-forming, potential foodborne pathogen that may cause two types of gastrointestinal illnesses: diarrhea and emesis. emetic syndrome results from the presence of a heat-resistant toxin, called cereulide, produced by B. cereus in food products. Although both syndromes are usually mild, with patients recovering after about 24 h, an intoxication can be fatal for vulnerable individuals such as children or elderly people

In Belgium, from 2007 until 2012, two to eight foodborne outbreaks were reported on a yearly basis in which B. cereus was identified as the causative agent. During this period 8 of 26 B. cereus  outbreaks were caused by emetic B. cereus  representing 147 cases and 1 death.

In this report, we describe a foodborne outbreak affecting 20 toddlers aged between 10 and 18 months caused by the consumption of a homemade mashed rice–cucumber–chicory meal contaminated with critical levels of the B. cereus emetic toxin.

This outbreak highlights the importance of respecting good hygienic practices and strict storage conditions. An ill staff member had been involved in the preparation of the implicated food and may have contaminated the food. Unfortunately, no fecal sample from the staff member could be analyzed and thus her role could not be confirmed. It is recommended to withdraw any ill person from food preparation activities, as stated by the Codex Alimentarius.

Moreover, the temperature in the refrigerator where the food was stored had never been registered by the director of the kindergarten. The refrigerator at the kindergarten did not meet the Belgian recommendation on refrigeration temperatures, which are recommended to be between 0 and 4_ C, although it was in accordance ( <  7_ C) with the Belgian and European Legislation. Storage of foods below 10_ C prevents the growth of strains that produce emetic toxin, while refrigeration below 4_ C is necessary to prevent growth of all types of B. cereus , including psychrotrophic strains. In this case, high levels of B. cereus were present and cereulide was detected in the leftovers. It is known that cooked rice supports cereulide production at temperatures from 15_ C to 37_ C.

gastro.daycare.sep.12Therefore, inappropriate and slow cooling probably allowed the development of B. cereus  and subsequent cereulide production in the rice. After cooking, the temperature of the food should be allowed to drop to 10_ C as quickly as possible and should ideally reach 4_ C to avoid any growth of B. cereus.

Portioning the rice for storage would also have helped to achieve a more rapid drop in temperature below 10_ C in the center of the bowl in which the rice was stored.

Subsequent to this outbreak, a plan for cleaning was established at the kindergarten, and measures for temperature control of the refrigerators were taken.

Given that hazardous levels of cereulide can be reached quickly as demonstrated in this investigation, it is important to remain vigilant during food preparation and food storage to prevent illness and outbreaks caused by B. cereus .

An emetic Bacillus cereus outbreak in a kindergarten: detection and quantification of critical levels of cereulide toxin

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. January 2015, 12(1): 84-87

Delbrassinne Laurence, Botteldoorn Nadine, Andjelkovic Mirjana, Dierick Katelijne, and Denayer Sarah

Lessons learned from a textbook outbreak: EHEC-O157:H7 infections associated with the consumption of raw meat products, June 2012, Limburg, Belgium

On 5 June 2012 several enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, EHEC, O157:H7 infections were reported to the public health authorities of Limburg.


We performed a case-control study, a trace back/forward investigation and compared strains isolated from human cases and food samples. A case was defined as anyone with a laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7-infection in North-East Limburg from May 30 2012 till July 15 2012. Family members with bloody diarrhea were also included as cases. E. coli O157 was isolated by culture and the presence of the virulence genes was verified using (q)PCR. Isolates were genotyped and compared by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) and insertion sequence 629-printing (IS629-printing).


The outbreak involved 24 cases, of which 17 were laboratory-confirmed. Five cases developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and fifteen were hospitalized. Cases reported a significantly higher consumption of “steak tartare”, a raw meat product (OR 48.12; 95% CI; 5.62- 416.01). Cases were also more likely to buy meat-products at certain butcheries (OR 11.67; 95% CI; 1.41 – 96.49). PFGE and IS629-printing demonstrated that the vtx1a vtx2a eae ehxA positive EHEC O157:H7 strains isolated from three meat products and all seventeen human stool samples were identical. In a slaughterhouse, identified by the trace-back investigation, a carcass infected with a different EHEC strain was found and confiscated.


We present a well described and effectively investigated foodborne outbreak associated with meat products. Our main recommendations are the facilitation and acceleration of the outbreak detection and the development of a communication plan to reaches all persons at risk. 

Archives of Public Health, 2014, 72:44

Abstract (provisional)

Polio virus released into Belgian waters; The Netherlands issue shellfish warning

The Dutch Food Safety and Health Authorities issued a warning (computer translated) against the consumption of raw, improperly cooked shellfish (mainly oysters) harvested by individuals in the eastern part of the Westerschelde river in response to the 45 litres of concentrated live polio virus solution accidentally released into Belgium water sources by Glaxo SmithKline earlier this month.

Raw oystersThe Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a release Monday (computer translated), The risk of infection with the poliovirus is very small. Since its release to the River Avenue, the concentration is diluted so much that the water itself is not a threat. However, shellfish filter water and the amount of virus can be higher than in the shell than in the water. Even then the chance to get infected even very small. But in the Netherlands, we are very cautious when it comes to polio. Along the Westerschelde are a number of municipalities with low vaccine coverage where many children are not protected against diseases like polio . When it comes poliovirus in such a community, there is great likelihood that many people get sick.

Belgium gave no such recommendations as the country’s polio vaccination rates are better than the Netherlands, according to the RIVM.

Prevalence of Arcobacter (close to Campylobacter) species among humans, 2008–2013, Belgium

We examined fecal samples from 6,774 patients with enteritis in Belgium, 2008–2013. Members of the genus Arcobacter werethe fourth most common pathogen group isolated, and the isolation rate was higher than previously reported. Culturing Arcobacter in a microbiology laboratory is feasible and should thus be tested for in cases of diarrheal disease.

ArcobacterCampylobacteriosis is the most frequently reported zoonosis in industrialized countries with an increasing incidence during 2007–2011 (1). In this study, bacteria of the Arcobacter genus, which is closely related to the Campylobacter genus, comprised the fourth most common pathogenic group isolated from stool specimens of patients with acute enteritis in Ghent, Belgium.

Volume 20, Number 10, October 2014

Anne-Marie Van den Abeele, Dirk Vogelaers, Johan Van Hende, and Kurt Houf

E. coli O26: goat’s cheese withdrawn in Belgium

The goat’s cheese product Crottins de Chavignol has been withdrawn from sale in Luxembourg following the discovery of Escherichia coli O26 H11 pathogens in different batches of the product.

Crottin_de_ChavignolThe Organisation for Security and Quality of the Food Chain (OSQCA) was informed by the RASFF European rapid alert system of a product recall regarding the dairy H. TRIBALLAT, situated in France, with the identification number FR 18.194.050 CE, due to the presence of a pathogenic strain – Escherichia coli O26 H11 – in different batches of Chavignol cheeses also distributed to Luxembourg.

All the products distributed to various European countries have the same FR 18.194.050 CE identification number.

The cheeses are sold at various major retailers in Luxembourg which have already been informed of this consumer recall. Stores concerned immediately withdred the cheeses concerned from the market. 

Retailer recalls oysters in Belgium amid norovirus concerns

Supermarket chain Carrefour has recalled oysters marketed under its own brand as well as the Cultimer brand after testing positive for norovirus.

The supermarket chain urges customers who ate ‘Normandy oysters’ and who SUN0705N-Oyster7display symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and/or a temperature to see their doctor.