Another record quarter for international food safety network

A global food safety network was involved in 65 incidents from July to September, which is

A global food safety network was involved in 65 incidents from July to September, which is more than earlier this year.

It is the third successive quarter that events involving the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) have gone up, with 63 from April to June and 56 in the first quarter of this year.

Salmonella was part of 46 incidents involving a biological hazard followed by Listeria with 11. Next was E. coli with four, a couple each for Bacillus cereus, Hepatitis A, Norovirus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus and one each for Clostridium botulinum and Staphylococcus aureus.

Salmonella melon outbreak
The source of a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup that affected more than 350 people was traced to Galia melons from Honduras.

Four people were sick in the United States and two in Canada. The UK was the most affected country but ill people also lived in Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Norway.

A positive sample of Salmonella Braenderup that matched the outbreak strain was detected on the surface of the washing tank in one of the Honduran facilities where Galia melons are packed. Corrective measures were taken onsite to prevent future contamination. The harvest season is set to start again in December.

Salmonella Braenderup matching the outbreak strain was isolated in the UK in June in two imported Galia melons from one batch from Honduras and in Austria from a pooled sample of melons with unknown origin, including Galia, in April.

However, authorities in Honduras said the cause of the outbreak cannot be confirmed to be Galia melons from the country, since a case was reported in July 2021 in Denmark, and no such melons from Honduras were exported during that period.

Summary of other incidents
Nine of the 65 INFOSAN notices involved a physical hazard, mostly glass but also plastic, a can defect, a foreign body and a knife. Three were for the chemical hazards — histamine and chlorpyrifos. Seven included an undeclared allergen or ingredient such as milk, soy, sesame seeds and gluten.

The network is managed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Fish and other seafood was the food category most commonly involved in the 65 incidents during the third quarter with 13. This was followed by herbs spices and condiments; meat and meat products; and vegetables and vegetable products, all with eight.

Some alerts involved milk and dairy products; snacks, desserts, and other foods; fruit and fruit products; composite food; cereals and cereal based products; fruit and vegetable juices; legume and pulses; non-alcoholic beverages; nuts and oilseeds and products for special nutritional use.

Of the 65 incidents, almost half were communicated to the INFOSAN secretariat through the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), 40 percent by INFOSAN members, and 15 percent through various WHO channels.

Past and future events
In September, a virtual workshop on risk communication during food safety emergencies was held with INFOSAN members in Cape Verde.

In mid-October, the INFOSAN secretariat attended the invitation-only Global Food Safety Incidents and Emergency Response Conference, organized by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

Francesco Branca, head of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO, presented the role of INFOSAN in food safety incidents and in broader food systems. Ceyhun Güngӧr, of the INFOSAN secretariat, spoke about the network’s potential for improving risk communication between countries.

In-person training on the use of risk analysis in response to food safety emergencies in the Western Balkans is scheduled to take place in Albania on Nov. 25 and 26.

A regional virtual meeting was held in Africa this month with input from INFOSAN as well as WHO and FAO regional offices. An Asia meeting is set for Dec. 7 and 8 and an Americas event is on tap Dec. 15 and 16.

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