40 sick: Salmonella in sesame seeds never seen before

The European Centre for Disease Prevention reports that since March 2016, four EU Member States have reported a total of 40 cases of a new Salmonella serotype with an antigenic formula 11:z41:enz15, which has never been described before. The cases have been reported from Greece (N=22), Germany (N=10), Czech Republic (N=5) and Luxembourg (N=3). Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) and Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) have confirmed the genetic closeness of the Salmonella isolates, suggesting a common source of infection. The latest case reports are from February 2017.

An epidemiological analytical study performed in Greece in 2016 found an association between infection and a sesame-based product. This hypothesis was confirmed by the identification of the same Salmonella serotype in sesame seeds in October 2016 in Germany. As sesame seeds have a long shelf life and new cases have been reported recently, it is likely that contaminated batches have been circulating in the food chain for several months in a number of Member States.

Although few new cases have been reported in the last three months, the outbreak still appears to be ongoing.

Because serving certain foods to old folks is dumb: Listeria infections frequently reported among the EU elderly

European experts have noted an increasing trend of listeriosis since 2008, but they highlight that the number of affected people stabilised from 2014 to 2015. Infections were mostly reported in people over 64 years of age. These are some of the findings of the latest annual report by EFSA and ECDC on zoonotic diseases, which also includes the latest trends on salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and foodborne outbreaks in the European Union.

listeria4Listeriosis affected about 2,200 people in 2015, causing 270 deaths – the highest number ever reported in the EU. The proportion of cases in the over 64 age group steadily increased from 56% in 2008 to 64% in 2015. Additionally, in this period, the number of reported cases and their proportion has almost doubled in those over 84 years.

“It is concerning that there continues to be an increasing trend of Listeria cases which mostly occur in the elderly population. ECDC is working together with Member States to enhance surveillance for food- and waterborne diseases, starting with Listeria, as earlier detection of relevant clusters and outbreaks can help prevent further cases,” said Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC. “This is a public health threat that can and needs to be addressed”, he added.

Dr. Marta Hugas, Head of Biological Hazards and Contaminants at EFSA, said: “Listeria seldom exceeded the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods, the most common foodborne source of human infections. However, it is important that consumers follow manufacturers’ storage instructions and the guidelines given by national authorities on the consumption of foods.”

In 2015, there were 229,213 reported cases of campylobacteriosis. This disease remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, showing an upward trend since 2008. Campylobacter is mostly found in chickens and chicken meat.

The number of cases of salmonellosis, the second most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, increased slightly – from 92,007 in 2014 to 94,625 in 2015. The increase observed in the past two years is partly due to improvements in surveillance and better diagnostic methods. However, the long-term trend is still declining and most Member States met their Salmonella reduction targets for poultry populations.

Salmonella is mainly found in meat (poultry) intended to be cooked before consumption.

Foodborne pathogen typing: Getting it right, it’s sorta important

In 2012, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) initiated external quality assessment (EQA) schemes for molecular typing including the National Public Health Reference Laboratories in Europe.

get-it-rightThe overall aim for these EQA schemes was to enhance the European surveillance of food-borne pathogens by evaluating and improving the quality and comparability of molecular typing. The EQAs were organised by Statens Serum Institut (SSI) and included Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica, verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) and Listeria monocytogenes. Inter-laboratory comparable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) images were obtained from 10 of 17 of the participating laboratories for Listeria, 15 of 25 for Salmonella, but only nine of 20 for VTEC. Most problems were related to PFGE running conditions and/or incorrect use of image acquisition. Analysis of the gels was done in good accordance with the provided guidelines. Furthermore, we assessed the multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) scheme for S. Typhimurium. Of 15 laboratories, nine submitted correct results for all analysed strains, and four had difficulties with one strain only. In conclusion, both PFGE and MLVA are prone to variation in quality, and there is therefore a continuous need for standardisation and validation of laboratory performance for molecular typing methods of food-borne pathogens in the human public health sector.

Evaluation of molecular typing of foodborne pathogens in European reference laboratories from 2012 To 2013

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 50, 15 December 2016

S Schjørring, T Niskanen, M Torpdahl, JT Björkman, EM Nielsen

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22673

Low incidence of TSEs in the EU, says EFSA

EFSA has published its first EU summary report on the monitoring of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) in cattle, sheep and goats. Previously, the annual reports on TSEs were compiled by the European Commission.

TSEs are a group of diseases that affect the brain and nervous system of humans and animals.  With the exception of Classical BSE, there is no scientific evidence that other TSEs can be transmitted to humans.

mad-cows-mothers-milkA low number of BSE cases in cattle were detected in EU Member States, none of which entered the food chain.

Some of the main findings of the report are:

Five cases of BSE in cattle have been reported in the EU, out of about 1.4 million animals tested.

641 cases of scrapie in sheep (out of 319,638 tested) and 1,052 in goats have been reported (out of 135,857 tested) in the EU.

This report provides results on data collected by all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for 2015 on the occurrence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Croatian ag ministry fails to report new Salmonella case

(Something may be lost in translation)

Why did Croatian government services responsible for food control did not inform consumers that chicken fillets imported from Poland had salmonella in them before the European website RASFF announced on 11 November that chicken fillets that were on the Croatian market were infected with salmonella, reports Jutarnji List on November 16, 2016.

6f8fcda6bd385aa02b34590c17bec639_lAccording to the notice on the website, it is apparent that the laboratory analysis was conducted 20 days earlier, on 21 October. So, the obvious question is why was the finding sent 20 days later and why Croatian consumers were not informed about it.

The explanation was given by the Agriculture Ministry, which is responsible for informing citizens about possible withdrawal of food from the market. They said that Croatia, which is a member of the RASFF system, submitted information that one retailer conducted analysis of chicken from Poland (on 21 October) and that the presence of salmonella was found. “Even before obtaining laboratory reports, the meat was past its expiry date and therefore was no longer present in the market. That is the reason why the information in the RASFF system is classified only as a “notice of information”, and not as an “alert”. So, this chicken is no longer on the market in Croatia”, according to the Ministry.

However, while the reply states that the public was not informed because at the time when the report was finished the expiry date had already passed, it seems that the chicken was on the market while waiting for the findings, which realistically means that today someone might have in their freezer contaminated chicken which was bought in October.

It is interesting that the analysis which led to the discovery of salmonella in the chicken took place in the midst of another scandal with salmonella in eggs imported also from Poland. It is therefore worrying that this information was not officially released by the Agriculture Ministry.

It has been just over a month since a boy from Bregana, Mirko Vidović, died after eating eggs that have been infected with salmonella. Although the autopsy process has still not been completed, so the exact cause of death is not known, it is known that the eggs he ate were infested with salmonella. The eggs were withdrawn from the shops. Immediately after the Croatian case was reported to RASFF, it was discovered that several other similar cases were reported in the EU, all connected to a facility in Poland. At the time, as many as 12 other European countries reported salmonella cases as well.

260 sick: EU has an egg problem too

Seven countries have reported human cases of Salmonella Enteritidis between 1 May and 12 October 2016 (112 confirmed and 148 probable).

powell-egg-nov-14Cases have been reported by Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. In addition, Croatia reported a cluster of cases, including one death, possibly associated with this outbreak.

Whole genome sequencing, food and environmental investigations, and trace-back investigations established a link between the outbreak and an egg packing centre in Poland. Evidence suggests eggs as the most likely source of infection. 

Polish competent authorities and Member States to which suspect eggs were distributed have now halted distribution.

To contain the outbreak and identify possible new cases promptly, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and EFSA recommend that EU Member States step up their monitoring.

Affected countries should continue sharing information on the epidemiological, microbiological and environmental investigations, including issuing relevant notifications using the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), the latter representing the official channel to notify serious cross border threats to health.

Salmonella positive sprouts sold in Ireland

Seán McCárthaigh of The Times reports that EU inspectors auditing food hygiene practices in Ireland found European regulations were being broken, particularly in relation to seeds and sprouts.

kevin-allen-sproutIn November last year, four official samples of sprouts tested positive for salmonella. However, the batch was placed on the market without waiting for the final analytical results.

The Department of Agriculture said it had increased controls on businesses involved in the production of sprouts.

The European Food Safety Authority has estimated that food of non-animal origin was associated with 10 per cent of outbreaks of E.coli across the EU between 2007 and 2011; 35 per cent of hospitalisations and 46 per cent of deaths.

It linked leafy greens eaten raw as well as bulb and stem vegetables such as tomatoes and melons with salmonella and fresh pods, legumes and grains with E. coli.

The inspectors said the system of official controls in Ireland on food producers was supported by a well-functioning network of adequately staffed and equipped laboratories.

The EU report found that 13 per cent of registered primary producers of non-animal food were inspected last year.

There are 761 registered producers of fruit, vegetables and potatoes in Ireland as well as 88 producers of leafy green vegetables, 30 producers of soft fruit, 17 producers of sprouted seed, 301 producers of potatoes only and 225 others including 80 mushroom producers.

Seven EU countries imported salmonella-infected eggs from Poland

Seven countries in the European Union have imported eggs infected with Salmonella from Poland.

eggsalmonellaDutch authorities have reported the infected eggs to the European Commission, which oversees the quality of food and feed.

The threat is considered to be serious, the Polish PAP news agency has said.

According to Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, “several shipments of Polish eggs contaminated with Salmonella” have been sent to seven EU countries, including hundreds of restaurants in Belgium, from “various Dutch suppliers”.

Got a reference for that throwaway in-the-home cause? Salmonella and catered meals in Europe

Salmonella spp. is the causative agent of a foodborne disease called salmonellosis, which is the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in the European Union (EU).

Raw_eggAlthough over the years the annual number of cases of foodborne salmonellosis within the EU has decreased markedly, in 2014, a total of 88,715 confirmed cases were still reported by 28 EU Member States.

The European Food Safety Authority reported that, after the household environment, the most frequent settings for the transmission of infection were catering services. As evidenced by the reviewed literature, which was published over the last 15 years (2000–2014), the most frequently reported causative agents were Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium serovars. These studies on outbreaks indicated the involvement of various facilities, including hospital restaurants, takeaways, ethnic restaurants, hotels, in-flight catering, one fast-food outlet and the restaurant of an amusement park. The most commonly reported sources of infection were eggs and/or egg-containing foods, followed by meat- and vegetable-based preparations.

Epidemiological and microbiological studies allowed common risk factors to be identified, including the occurrence of cross-contamination between heat-treated foods and raw materials or improperly cleaned food-contact surfaces.

Salmonellosis associated with mass catering: a survey of European Union cases over a 15-year period

Epidemiology and Infection; Cambridge University Press 2016; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268816001540; 13 pages; Published online: 18 July 2016

Osimani, L. Aquilanti And F. Clementi

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10411413&fileId=S0950268816001540

 

Food fraud: EU warns Italy to stop treating squid with hydrogen peroxide

Michael Ramsingh of Seafoodnews.com reports European trade officials have warned Italy to stop soaking its squid in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and shipping it to markets around the EU.

squid-fish-marketItalian officials were notified by the EU Commission’s Ministry of Health that soaking squid in H2O2 currently violates specific food safety regulations.  The practice is legal in the Italian market but is not approved in other member countries.

“The use of this substance as a food additive, therefore, is not authorized in the EU,” the Commission said in a statement. “The Member States have the responsibility to enforce effectively the Union legislation concerning the food chain, which also includes rules applicable to the use of food additives.”

H2O2 is used to treat squid to increase its marketability since it whitens the product on display. The treatment does not pose a health risk for consumers. However, the practice is considered dubious since it is nearly impossible to tell a treated squid product with a non-treated item, which makes it difficult to verify the actual freshness of the item.