EFSA: Scientific Opinion on the risk posed by Salmonella in melons

Melons and watermelons are ready-to-eat foods, with an internal pH of 5.1 to 6.7 and can be consumed whole, as fresh-cut products or as fresh juices.

rock.melon.may.12Epidemiological data from the EU identified one salmonellosis outbreak associated with consumption of both pre-cut and whole melon between 2007 and 2012. Risk factors for melon and watermelon contamination by Salmonella were considered in the context of the whole food chain, together with available estimates of Salmonella occurrence and mitigation options relating to prevention of contamination and the relevance of microbiological criteria. It was concluded that each farm environment represents a unique combination of risk factors that can influence occurrence and persistence of Salmonella in melon and watermelon production.

Appropriate implementation of food safety management systems including Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), should be primary objectives of producers. It is currently not possible to assess the suitability of an EU-wide E. coli Hygiene Criterion at primary production.

The existing Process Hygiene Criterion for E. coli in pre-cut melons and watermelons aims to indicate the degree to which GAP, GHP, GMP or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programmes have been implemented.

There are Food Safety Criteria for the absence of Salmonella in 25g samples placed on the market during their shelf life of ready-to-eat pre-cut melon and watermelon and unpasteurised melon and watermelon juices.

A Food Safety Criterion for Salmonella in whole melons and watermelons could be considered as a tool to communicate to producers and processors that Salmonella should not be present in the product. Since the occurrence of Salmonella is likely to be low, testing of whole melons or watermelons for this bacteriumcould be limited to instances where other factors indicate breaches in GAP, GHP, GMP or HACCP programmes.

EFSA: Scientific Opinion on the risk posed by Salmonella and Norovirus in tomatoes

Tomatoes may be minimally processed to obtain ready-to-eat products, and these steps include selection, washing, cleaning, stem removal, cutting, packaging and storage.

tomatoEpidemiological data from the EU have identified one salmonellosis outbreak and one Norovirus outbreak associated with tomato consumption between 2007 and 2012. Risk factors for tomato contamination by Salmonella and Norovirus were considered in the context of the whole food chain.

Available estimates of the Salmonella and Norovirus occurrence in tomatoes were evaluated together with mitigation options relating to prevention of contamination and the relevance of microbiological criteria. It was concluded that each farm environment represents a unique combination of risk factors that can influence occurrence and persistence of pathogens in tomato production.

Appropriate implementation of food safety management systems including Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), should be primary objectives of tomato producers. The current lack of data does not allow the proposal of a Hygiene Criterion for E. coli at primary production of tomatoes and it is also not possible to assess the suitability of an EU-wide E. coli Process Hygiene Criterion.

There are Food Safety Criteria for the absence of Salmonella in 25 g samples of ready-to-eat pre-cut tomatoes as well as in unpasteurised tomato juice placed on the market during their shelf life. A Food Safety Criterion for Salmonella in whole tomatoes could be considered as a tool to communicate to producers and processors that Salmonella should not be present in the product.

Testing of tomatoes for Salmonella could be limited to instances where other factors indicate breaches in GAP, GHP, GMP or HACCP programmes. It is currently not possible to provide a risk base for establishing a Norovirus Food Safety Criterion for these foods.

EU vs. North America uses of risk analysis

Maybe this is why Europe is somewhat messed up over food.

The European Food Safety Authority says “the decision to separate the tasks of risk assessment and risk management just over a decade ago has transformed the safety of Europe’s food. And while there is wide recognition that this change has strengthened the safety of the food chain, riskman-cycleuncertainty can still exist over the difference in roles and responsibilities of risk assessors and risk managers. … Risk assessors provide independent scientific advice on potential threats in the food chain. Risk managers use this advice as a basis for making decisions to address these issues. At a European level, this separation of roles is fundamental and enshrined in law. It was introduced to make clear the distinction between science and politics; to place independent science-based assessment at the heart of policy making.”

Maybe there’s “wide recognition” in Europe, but in the U.S. and Canada risk assessment, management and communication are recognized as interdependent roles, forming the overall risk analysis approach.

Because value judgements are an inherent part of human activity, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommended in 1997 that risk assessors expand risk characterization beyond the current practice of merely
translating the results of a risk analysis into non-technical terms. This
limited approach is “seriously deficient” and should be replaced with an
analytical-deliberative approach that involves stakeholders from the very
inception of a risk assessment.

The report can be found at the RiskWorld web site at:
http://www.riskworld.com/Nreports/1997/risk-rpt/html/epajana.htm

It has pretty circles.

InfographicsRiskARiskM

Europe assesses the risk of Salmonella and Norovirus in leafy greens

Rainfall, use of contaminated water for irrigation or contaminated equipment are among the factors that cause contamination of leafy greens with Salmonella and Norovirus. These are some of the findings of EFSA’s latest opinion on risk factors that contribute to the contamination of leafy greens at different stages of the food chain. The BIOHAZ Panel has lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145recommended that producers use good agricultural, hygiene and manufacturing practices to reduce contamination. The Panel has also proposed specific microbiological criteria at primary production.

Leafy greens eaten raw as salads are minimally processed and widely consumed foods. Risk factors for leafy greens contamination by Salmonella spp. and Norovirus were considered in the context of the whole food chain including agricultural production and processing. Available estimates of the prevalence of these pathogens (together with the use of Escherichia coli as an indicator organism) in leafy greens were evaluated. Specific mitigation options relating to contamination of leafy greens were considered and qualitatively assessed. It was concluded that each farm environment represents a unique combination of numerous characteristics that can influence occurrence and persistence of pathogens in leafy greens production. Appropriate implementation of food safety management systems, including Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), should be primary objectives of leafy green producers. The relevance of microbiological criteria applicable to production, processing and at retail/catering were considered. The current legal framework does not include microbiological criteria applicable at primary production which will validate and verify GAP and GHP. It is proposed to define a criterion at primary production of leafy greens which is designated as Hygiene Criterion, and E. coli was identified as suitable for this purpose.

A Process Hygiene Criterion for E. coli in leafy green packaging plants or fresh cutting plants was considered and will also give an indication of the degree to which GAP, GHP, GMP or HACCP programs have been implemented. A Food Safety Criterion for Salmonella in leafy greens could be used as a tool to communicate to producers and processors that Salmonella should not be present in the product. Studies on the prevalence and infectivity of Norovirus are limited, and quantitative data on viral load are scarce making establishment of microbiological criteria for Norovirus on leafy greens difficult.

Frozen fruit and Hepatitis A outbreaks in Europe

As European regulators work to help identify the origin of the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A in Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, the Coop in Denmark is pulling frozen strawberries after 52 people were sickened across Scandinavia in possibly related outbreaks.

The Copenhagen Post reports that frozen strawberries are suspected of being the source of an outbreak of 52 cases of hepatitis A across frozen.strawberryScandinavia, leading Coop to withdraw them from its stores.

The berries are from Egypt and Morocco and sold under the names “Sund Fornuft Jordbær”, “Irma Jordbær” and “Coop Jordbær”, and have been sold by Fakta, Irma, Dagli´Brugsen, LokalBrugsen, Kvickly and SuperBrugsen.

“We are not sure these berries are to blame for the outbreak but we dare not risk the health of our customers,” Coop spokesperson Karin Frøidt told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We are [withdrawing the berries] to be extra safe.”

Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority says 15 sickened people had travelled to the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano, in Italy and that preliminary investigations have identified frozen berries as the most likely source of infection.

Why people ignore risk: EFSA@10 Conference opens with call to further strengthen risk assessment ‘community’

Monty Python says Americans like to talk.

Europeans sure like to talk. Amy is faux European, being a French professor, and she talks all the time.

And who uses dick fingers around the word community?

But talk doesn’t help people who are barfing: like the 53 who were killed and 4,400 who were sickened by raw sprouts last year.

Hundreds of the world’s leading food safety experts are gathering in Parma this week to take part in a high-level scientific conference organized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to mark its tenth anniversary.

Does high-level mean they are all stoned?

The two-day event, “Challenging boundaries in risk assessment – sharing experiences”, which kicked off this morning (7 November), brings together global specialists from a wide range of scientific disciplines who will be debating the frontiers in risk assessment and considering future key issues and opportunities.

Hubert Deluyker, EFSA’s Director of Science Strategy and Coordination, outlined the Authority’s critical role in developing risk assessment in Europe, emphasized the necessity for a continued commitment to scientific cooperation and re-affirmed the need for a regulatory environment that evolves with scientific developments yet remains predictable.

“EFSA functions thanks to the EU risk assessment community,” said Dr Deluyker. “And we are central to its progress, for instance through the development of guidance that has harmonised and modernised methodologies relating to risk assessment for food and feed over the past decade.”

Awesome.

Sprouts in Europe: agencies try to make agencies look better

The first rule of public health is, make public health look good.

That’s what I was told by a senior health type after the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 that killed seven and sickened 2,500 in a town of 5,000 (it’s in Canada).

This isn’t cynicism, it’s just something that has been repeated to me by front-line types for the past 20 years.

The European Food Safety Authority is doing some (belated) cleanup and after the E. coli O104 outbreak in sprouts last year that killed 53 and sickened 4,400.

In anything but a rapid response to a crisis, EFSA has written a report that has lots of notes about all the meetings they had, but has nothing about what they did for all those sick and dead people. Nor does it address widespread criticism at the time of the outbreak that health types were far too slow to pinpoint the source and respond.

To hammer home their role of inadequacy, EFSA published a companion piece, Risk communication: Making it clear, timely and relevant, with catchy soundbites like, “By communicating on risks in an open and transparent way based on the advice of its scientific expert panels, EFSA contributes to improving food safety in Europe and to building public confidence in the way risk is assessed. … To this end, in the last 10 years, EFSA has commissioned two Eurobarometer surveys on risk perception in the EU. The findings of the reports show that most Europeans view national and European food safety agencies as reliable sources of information on possible risks associated with food. The surveys have proved invaluable in guiding and informing EFSA’s communications.

Organizations can survey all they want to bolster their own self-opinions around the water cooler. Didn’t help contain a ridiculously large outbreak.

Don’t add poop: how to prevent norovirus in oysters

 The most effective public health measures to protect consumers from exposure to norovirus in oysters are to produce oysters in areas which are not contaminated or to prevent contamination of mollusc production areas.

And current methods used to remove norovirus in shellfish are not an effective means of reducing contamination.

So says the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ Panel) in a new risk assessment.

The Panel recommends establishing acceptable limits for the presence of virus in oysters that are harvested and placed on the market in the European Union. In addition, an EU-wide baseline survey on norovirus in oysters should be carried out to provide information on overall consumer exposure as well as the public health impact of control measures.

Norovirus is transmitted through the consumption of food or water contaminated with fecal matter or through person-to-person contact or contact with infected surfaces. Oysters contaminated with norovirus pose a particular risk to human health as they are often consumed raw.

EFSA’s BIOHAZ Panel concludes that norovirus is highly infectious and that the amount of the virus detected in oysters linked to human cases can vary greatly.

Scientists highlight that norovirus is frequently detected in oysters in Europe which comply with existing EU control standards for bivalve molluscs.