Hit fraudsters where it hurts: Cash flow

Companies guilty of the biggest violations on the rules regarding food safety, will soon have to pay massive fines in The Netherlands. From June 1, 2016, the worst food fraud offenders will have to pay 10 percent of their annual turnover, instead of the current maximum fine of 20 thousand euros.

food.fraud.finesThis amendment to the Animal Act, which oversees the production of food, was proposed by State Secretary Martijn van Dam of Economic Affairs, AD reports. The Council of State is currently considering the amendment.

According to State Secretary, the current maximum fine of 20 thousand euros is largely ignored by wrong doers. “It is simply factored in by the fraudulent food producers”, he said to the newspaper. “We saw in the horse meat scandal that this amount does not frighten them. We are going to change that. If they have to pay 10 percent of their annual turnover – no maximum – they will really feel it.”

The maximum fines in the Commodities Act, which deals with products already in stores, were already increased from 4,500 euros to 810,000 euros in April.

Netherlands: Salmonella outbreak from salmon cost €1.7m

For 20 years now, smoked salmon on bagels has been my quick breakfast go-to while driving to the rink in the early morning.

rivm-cost-salmonella_largeUnfortunately, the bagels in Australia suck.

An outbreak of Salmonella Thomson due to smoked salmon cost €1.7m, according to RIVM, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.


Damn you cats: Squirrels ‘dropping dead from trees’ from Toxo outbreak

Toxoplasma gondii, a zoonotic protozoan parasite for which felids are the only definitive hosts, can infect humans and other warm-blooded animals.

cats.sink.jun.13Transmission usually occurs orally from oocysts shed by felids in water and on food, through tissue cysts in undercooked meat, or transplacentally. In particular, young cats shed oocysts that can sporulate and become infectious within a day, depending on temperature and humidity. Sporulated oocysts can survive in moist soil for months to years (1).

In September 2014, the number of dead squirrels reported to the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre and the Dutch Mammal Society increased suddenly. The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is the only species of squirrel endemic to the Netherlands. Members of the public claimed that squirrels were “dropping dead from trees.” Subsequently, the public was encouraged to report and submit dead squirrels. A total of 187 animals were reported through October 2014, of which 37 were submitted for necropsy. Necropsy included macroscopic examination; cytologic analysis of liver, spleen, lungs, and intestinal contents stained with hemacolor (Merck, Darmstadt, Germany); and histologic examination of samples of various organs fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin, cut into 4-μm sections, and stained with hematoxylin and eosin.

For 8 adult animals, body condition (based on degree of fat storage and muscle development) was good; 12 juveniles were in poor condition. Typically, the trachea contained foam, and lungs were hyperemic and edematous. The liver was enlarged and pale, and the spleen was enlarged. In 13 animals, numerous small crescent-shaped organisms, with eccentrically placed nuclei consistent with tachyzoites of T. gondii, were identified by cytology in lung, liver, and spleen (2). Main histopathologic findings were pulmonary interstitial lymphoplasmocytic and neutrophilic infiltrates with edema and numerous intra-alveolar macrophages (17/20) and multifocal lymphoplasmocytic infiltrates with necrosis in the liver (13/20). Extensive splenic necrosis was occasionally observed (4/20). Intestines contained mild plasmacytic infiltrates. Numerous tachyzoites consistent with T. gondii were present in alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells, splenic macrophages, and hepatocytes. Duplicate slides were stained immunohistochemically by using polyclonal antibodies against T. gondii following a standard ABC protocol (3). Organisms stained for T. gondii in liver, spleen, lungs, and intestine. Toxoplasma was not detected in any brain. DNA was isolated (DNeasy Blood and Tissue Kit; QIAGEN, Hilden, Germany) from tissues of 14 squirrels and tested by quantitative PCR (1); T. gondii DNA was detected in 13. We successfully sequenced the T. gondii GRA6 gene for 11 squirrels and identified sequences to clonal type II T. gondii previously identified in sheep from the Netherlands (GenBank accession no. GU325790) (4). Incidental findings in the animals tested were encephalitis (2/20), coccidiosis (5/20), trauma (6/20), myocarditis (4/20), nephritis (1/20), lymphadenitis (1/20), and intestinal (3/20) and external (5/20) parasites.

The remaining 17 animals showed >1 of the following pathologic conditions: hemorrhages consistent with trauma (12/17), mild to severe intestinal coccidiosis (12/17), pneumonia (3/17), splenitis (1/17), Taenia martis cysticerci (1/17), and external parasites (8/17). Immunohistochemistry results for all 17 were negative for T. gondii.

grey.squirrel.eatOn the basis of necropsy and molecular findings, we conclude that 20 of 37 examined squirrels died of disseminated T. gondii type II infection. These animals included adults and juveniles and were not restricted to specific geographic areas. The remaining animals died of trauma (12/17) or other causes (5/17).

Red squirrels are susceptible to T. gondii, and infection can lead to death. However, in our sample, the proportion of squirrels that died of toxoplasmosis (>50%) was higher than in other studies (≈16%) (5,6,7). The apparent increase in squirrel deaths and unexpectedly high proportion of fatal T. gondii infections suggests a toxoplasmosis outbreak among red squirrels. Possible explanations for this surge in cases include increased exposure to the parasite, increased susceptibility to infection, or increased virulence of the pathogen. Clonal T. gondii type II, the strain most frequently involved in human cases and endemic to Europe and North America, was identified. An increased virulence of the pathogen could not be proven (8). On the basis of lymphoid hyperplasia in the spleen and lymph nodes, affected squirrels had no signs of immunosuppression. Thus, the most likely explanation is increased exposure to the parasite.

Sources of infection for red squirrels are not known; however, oocysts shed in cat feces may contaminate the nuts, fungi, shoots, and berries that constitute the diet of the squirrel. Stray, unspayed cats are common in the Dutch countryside. More than 3 million domestic cats (Felis domesticus) exist in the Netherlands, including several tens of thousands of free-roaming cats that reproduce (9). Determining the exact source of infection is important because humans also harvest wild fruits, nuts, and fungi from these areas. This outbreak highlights that contamination of the environment with T. gondii oocysts is of concern not only from a public health viewpoint but from a biodiversity perspective as well (1,10).

Marja Kik Comments to Author , Jooske IJzer, Marieke Opsteegh, Margriet Montizaan, Vilmar Dijkstra, Jolianne Rijks, Andrea Gröne, and Jooske IJzer

Author affiliations: Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands (M. Kik, J. IJzer, M. Montizaan, J. Rijks, A. Gröne); Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands (M. Opsteegh); Dutch Mammal Society, Nijmegen, the Netherlands (V. Dijkstra)


Toxoplasma gondii in Wild Red Squirrels, the Netherlands, 2014

Emerging Infections Diseases, Volume 21, Number 12, December 2015


‘Absurd you could be fined €800,000 for sending spam email and not for deliberately adding rubbish to food’ Netherlands increases fines

The maximum fines which Dutch food safety inspectors can levy on companies caught meddling with food has been increased from €4,500 to €810,000 following a vote in parliament on Tuesday evening.

netherlands.food.safe‘It was absurd that you could be fined €800,000 for sending spam email messages and not for deliberately adding rubbish to food,’ Labour MP Sjoera Dikkers, who sponsored the motion, is quoted by broadcaster Nos as saying after the vote.

For example, fish processing company Foppen, at the centre of a major salmonella scare last year, was given four fines of just €1,050. Ministers wanted to raise the maximum fines to €81,000 but Dikkers said that was not enough to force companies to keep to health and hygiene rules. The consumers’ association welcomed the change in the law. ‘Consumers have had to deal with food scandals time after time,’ a spokesman said. ‘This has made the need for higher fines painfully obvious.’ Dikkers is also campaigning to have all fines administered by food safety inspectors made public.

4 dead, 23000 sickened in 2012 from Salmonella Thompson related to smoked salmon in the Netherlands

On 15 August 2012, an increase in the number of Salmonella Thompson cases was noticed by the Salmonella surveillance in the Netherlands. A case–control study was performed, followed by a food investigation. In total 1,149 cases were laboratory-confirmed between August and December 2012 of which four elderly (76–91 years) were reported to have died due to the infection. The cause of the outbreak was smoked salmon processed at a single site.

r-SMOKED-SALMON-SALMONELLA-large570The smoked salmon had been continuously contaminated in the processing lines through reusable dishes, which turned out to be porous and had become loaded with bacteria.

This is the largest outbreak of salmonellosis ever recorded in the Netherlands. The temporary closure of the processing site and recall of the smoked salmon stopped the outbreak. An estimated four to six million Dutch residents were possibly exposed to the contaminated smoked salmon and an estimated 23,000 persons would have had acute gastroenteritis with S. Thompson during this outbreak.

This outbreak showed that close collaboration between diagnostic laboratories, regional public health services, the national institute for public health and the food safety authorities is essential in outbreak investigations.

Eurosurveillance, Volume 19, Issue 39

Friesema I, de Jong A, Hofhuis A, Heck M, van den Kerkhof H, de Jonge R, Hameryck D, Nagel K, van Vilsteren G, van Beek P, Notermans D, and van Pelt W.

4 dead, 1000 sick with Salmonella in Netherlands 2 years ago; fish processor still not up to scratch

A fish processing company which was at the centre of a salmonella outbreak two years ago, has not yet cleaned up its act, health minister Edith Schippers has told parliament.

Foppen.salmonHarderwijk-based Foppen was at the centre of a global salmon contamination scandal in 2012, in which four people died and 1,000 became ill.

Recent check-ups at the company’s processing plant resulted in fines for a ‘mold-like’ substance  on conveyer belts and condensation in the prawn packing system, news agency ANP said.

Last month local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland reported all was not yet well at the company, leading MPs to ask the health minister questions.

‘I consider it worrying that despite the salmonella outbreak in 2012 checks in 2013 and 2014 show that Foppen is not yet up to scratch,’ Schippers said in her briefing.

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.

Dutch safety council poised to slam ‘untransparent’ meat industry

I’m not sure untransparent is a word, but that’s the Dutch.

According to a new report in the Telegraaf, the Dutch safety institute is poised to publish a damning report about food safety in the meat industry.

The report by the Onderzoeksraad voor de Veiligheid says there are serious shortcomings in food industry supervision which pose a risk to food safety, the paper says.

In particular, the report is criticial of the lack of transparency in the meat trade. For example, a supermarket hamburger or meatball could have been handled by three or four different meat processors and the origin of the meat is often untraceable.
The Telegraaf says the industry itself is waiting for the report on tenterhooks following a string of food safety scandals over the past year.

These involve beef contaminated with horse and feces and salmonella in salmon.

Last year some 60,000 people suffered salmonella poisioning in the Netherlands, the paper says.

Yet the number of NVWA food safety inspectors has been ‘eaten away’ over the past few years.

Food safety inspectors shut down Netherlands mussel trader

Food safety inspectors have stopped a shellfish trader in Zeeland from exporting 47 tonnes of mussels after it failed to take action over two food poisoning incidents in England and Switzerland.

A small quantity of the mussels, which were exported to Ireland, are also being recalled, mussels-500the food safety body NVWA says.

In November, the same company was at the centre of another recall after several people became ill in England after eating mussels containing biotoxins, a poison common in shellfish. Those mussels came from Ireland but had been sold by the Dutch company.

The company was aware of the problem but did not register it with the authorities in time, food safety inspectors say. In December there was a second incident involving mussels in Switzerland. 
Those mussels, said at the time to be of Danish origin, turned out to be from the same Irish consignment as in the English food poisoning case.

Food inspectors have now effectively closed down the trader pending a full investigation and possible criminal charges.

950 sick, 3 dead; full report on salmonella in smoked salmon

Who doesn’t love a leisurely browse through the weekly Eurosurveillance, along with some salmon and poached eggs, maybe some honeydew melon (which has yellow skin here but still green fruit on the inside).

Researchers this week report an ongoing outbreak of salmonellosis due to Salmonella Thompson is affecting the Netherlands. Between 2 August and 19 October 2012, 866 cases were confirmed. Their median age was 44 years (range: 0–95 years), 63% were female and 36% were hospitalized. A matched case–control study suggested smoked salmon as the vehicle. Salmonella Thompson was confirmed in four of nine batches of smoked salmon from one producer. A recall of all concerned smoked salmon products was executed starting end of September.

The complete report is available at http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20303.