Category Archives: Microbiological Risk Assessment

Research – Resistance levels still high in bacteria causing foodborne infections


A sizeable proportion of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria is still resistant to antibiotics commonly used in humans and animals, as in previous years, says a report released today by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In humans, high proportions of resistance to ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat several types of infections, were reported in a specific Salmonella type known as S. Kentucky (82.1%). In recent years, S. Enteritidis resistant to nalidixic acid and/or ciprofloxacin has been increasingly reported in several countries. The increasing occurrence of fluoroquinolone and/or quinolone resistance in these types of Salmonella probably reflects the spread of particularly resistant strains.

In Campylobacter, resistance to ciprofloxacin is now so common in most countries that this antimicrobial has limited use in treatment of Campylobacter infections in humans.

However, the report also includes some positive findings. Over the period 2015-2019, a decline in resistance to ampicillin and tetracyclines has been observed in Salmonella isolates from humans in eight and eleven Member States respectively.

A decreasing trend has also been observed in the prevalence of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)- producing E. coli in samples from food producing animals from 13 Member States between 2015 and 2019. This is an important finding as particular strains of ESBL-producing E. coli are responsible for serious infections in humans.

Combined resistance to two critically important antimicrobials – fluoroquinolones and third generation cephalosporines in Salmonella and fluoroquinolones and macrolides in Campylobacter – remains low. These critically important antimicrobials are commonly used to treat serious infections from Salmonella and Campylobacter in humans.

The rate of E. coli bacteria in samples from food producing animals that respond to all antimicrobials tested also increased. This was observed in nine Member States over the period 2014-2019.

The report was based on antimicrobial resistance monitoring data collected by Member States as part of their EU regulatory obligations and jointly analysed by EFSA and ECDC with the assistance of external contractors.

Switzerland – Early detection for food safety


For sustainable assurance of food safety and the prevention of fraud, the FSVO identifies newly emerging risks to the health of Switzerland’s population. Early detection of this kind allows appropriate action to be taken in real time.


The FSVO compiles the most important food safety information every month.

Monitoring developments in the field of food safety is an essential task of early detection. This is why the FSVO summarises and evaluates the main information in Seismo Info. The publication is sent out by newsletter.

The aim of early detection for food safety is to identify and assess potential risks of food to the health of consumers.

The FSVO distinguishes between different types of risk:

  • Microbiological risks in foodstuffs and food fraud and deception
  • Chemical risks in foodstuffs and commodities
  • Nutrition-related risks

Monitoring system

The detection of newly emerging risks requires vigilant monitoring of societal and ecological changes, technological developments, economic trends and political conditions.

To perform these tasks, the FSVO manages an early detection system for food safety. This system considers information from a variety of sources, as well as the opinion of experts from the federal government, the cantons, industry and universities. The FSVO is also part of an international network that regularly shares information on new risks, assesses these risks and discusses the action to be taken.

Information and communication

The information gathered is compiled in the ADURA database, which can be accessed by federal and cantonal experts and to some extent also by the public.

The FSVO summarises and evaluates the main information every month in Seismo Info. The publication is communicated via the «Food safety and nutrition» newsletter (Subscription in French, German or Italian).

«Briefing letters» are short summaries of issues. They are characterised by in-depth research on a specific topic. Their purpose is to draw attention to hazards or risks that could endanger food safety in the medium to long term.

Anyone can contribute to early detection by submitting information to Specialists check the information and incorporate it into the ADURA database or Seismo Info as appropriate.

Research – Pioneering project describes molecular epidemiology of listeriosis in humans and Listeria monocytogenes in food


A collaborative study between ECDC, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Listeria monocytogenes* found a relatively high degree of dissemination of certain listeriosis bacteria in the food chain and in the human population across the European Union (EU). In particular, there was a strong link with ready-to-eat fish products in several of the listeriosis clusters identified.

Listeriosis is a foodborne disease caused by L. monocytogenes bacteria. After ingestion of L. monocytogenes bacteria via contaminated food, infection can cause severe, life-threatening disease, often manifested as septicaemia and/or meningitis, particularly among elderly and immunocompromised people, as well as complications related to pregnancy.

The collaborative study, called ‘the European Listeria Typing Exercise’ (ELiTE), was initiated in 2010 with the aim of describing with a One Health approach the molecular epidemiology of listeriosis in humans and food in a two-year period. The study connected data about public health and food from 13 and 23 EU Member States, respectively. The study on L. monocytogenes in food was conducted on three categories of ready-to-eat food: packaged hot or cold smoked or ‘gravad’ (cured) fish, soft or semi-soft cheeses, and packaged heat-treated meat products.

The study has utilised molecular typing, which is a way of identifying specific strains of microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, by looking at their genetic material. The selected molecular typing method for this project, pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), was a well-established, standardised molecular typing method in both sectors at the time of the study and was therefore a natural choice.

PFGE as a molecular typing method is gradually phasing out and is being replaced by the state-of-the-art method of whole genome sequencing (WGS). The project has bridged the PFGE method with WGS method by mapping the clustering PFGE types with respective clonal complexes (CCs) characterised by WGS. This offers a unique reference with information from historical PFGE cluster types linked to WGS, thus enabling countries to make use of historical PFGE data to select isolates for further characterisation by WGS. A cluster means that isolates are genetically very similar, i.e. they most likely originate from a common source. If human and food isolates are gathered in the same cluster, it is a strong, but not definite, indication that the food may have caused the infections. Microbiological evidence alone is not sufficient to link the food with human infections, and supportive epidemiological evidence is always required.

There were 78 separate clusters by PFGE profiles, involving 573 (57.7%) L. monocytogenes isolates in the study dataset. Of these, 21 included both human and food L. monocytogenes isolates, 47 included only human, and 10 only food isolates. In the 21 human-food clusters, the majority of food isolates (89.7%) were from fish products, whereas the remaining ones originated from delicatessen meat products (9.3%) and cheese products (1.0%). The amount of Listeria in fish products was generally low, but in 48 fish samples Listeria counts exceeded the microbiological criterion of 100 cfu/g. These high-count fish samples represented 87.3% of all food samples (55) with Listeria counts exceeding 100 cfu/g.

Of 78 clusters by PFGE profiles, 57 (73.1%) were small, up to five L. monocytogenes isolates per cluster. The largest PFGE cluster was made up of L. monocytogenes clone CC8. The cluster involved 30 human and 56 food L. monocytogenes isolates from 15 countries, suggesting a high degree of dissemination of this clone in the food chain in the EU. In contrast, considering the capacity of Listeria to persist in the food chain for years, this clone is likely to eventually cause large cross-border food-borne outbreaks.

The results from this project show that the risk of L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat fish products requires further attention. A review of the compliance of food business operators with regulatory microbiological criteria could be considered, particularly for fish products. In the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) there is an increasing proportion of aged populations, and challenges related to assessing exposure in this group. A genetic library of food-derived L. monocytogenes isolates against which any human isolate could be compared could maximise the speed of source identification in outbreak investigations. The data collected in this study and the applied methodology provide a good background for such a library.

*Hosted by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, ANSES

Germany and Tunisia – working together to improve food safety


Whether it be olive oil, dates or almonds, Tunisian food ought to become even safer. That is why the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), both institutions in the portfolio of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), launched the project “Strengthening Food Safety and Consumer Protection in Tunisia”. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provide in total 5 million euros for this over 5 years. The BMEL provides the necessary technical expertise through its two authorities. To begin with, high-ranking representatives of German and Tunisian ministries and authorities met today. The German Ambassador, Peter Prügel, opened the event. Under the chairmanship of Hichem Mechichi, the Tunisian Prime Minister and co-initiator, and in the presence of Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, and Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture as well as Mohamed Fadhel Kraiem, acting Tunisian Minister of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Maritime Fishing the BfR and the Tunisian Ministry of Health signed the implementation agreement for the project. “Building a functioning food safety system is a milestone for consumer health protection in Tunisia,” said BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “We are pleased that we can support Tunisia with the expertise of our institutions,” added his colleague BVL President Friedel Cramer.

In 2019, Tunisia adopted a new food safety law that allows the establishment of effective risk analysis structures. In the joint project, BfR and BVL are supporting the North African country in its implementation on the ground. The aim is to strengthen the administrative structures for food safety and consumer protection in Tunisia. The aim is to protect consumers and create better working conditions. In addition to regional trade, stable administrative structures and international standards are also important for the increasingly global and complex chain of goods.

Since the new law was passed, Tunisia has already set up a national Food Safety Authority (INSSPA) and a national risk assessment Agency (ANCSEP/ANER). Both are under the responsibility of the Tunisian Ministry of Health. As subsidiary bodies of the BMEL, BfR and BVL will advise the Tunisian sister authorities and provide training. Activities in the fields of policy advice, organizational development and training programmes for experts and managers are currently being planned together.

It is the first project to be based on the “Agreement on the involvement of BMEL business institutions in development cooperation projects”. The purpose of the agreement is to systematically integrate the expertise of institutions in the BMEL business area into BMZ’s development cooperation. The project is thus part of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s Africa Strategy, which defines strengthening food security as a goal for Africa’s participation in regional and international trade.

Press Release in French

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states (“Laender”) on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

About the BVL

The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) is an independent federal supreme authority within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). BVL contributes to food safety through a wide range of measures. It issues approvals and coordinates monitoring programmes together with the Laender. Within the framework of the European rapid alert system, BVL ensures the flow of information between the EU and the Laender.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.


Click to access Sultan%20Abdullah%20R_Alsaleh_Thesis.pdf

Denmark – Lack of heat treatment of raw materials used in smoothie


Palæo Foods ApS is recalling a smoothie product because the raw materials are not heat-treated.
Recalled Foods , Published: March 16, 2021
Modified March 26, 2021
Updated 26.03.2021: Best before dates added
What food:
Smoothie Power Up – Strawberry Blueberry (see photo )
Net content: 330 ml
Last use date / best before date: 27.03.21, 28.03.2021 , 01.04.2021 , 05.04.21, 11.04.2021 and 12.04.21.  
EAN barcode no .: 5712889221340
Sold in:
7 Eleven stores nationwide
Calling company:
Palæo Foods ApS, Store Kongensgade 81 C, 1264 Copenhagen
Lack of heat treatment of raw materials. 
Risk of diarrhea.
Advice for consumers:
The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration advises consumers to deliver the product back to the store where it was purchased or to discard it.

UK – Home Cooking and Selling Risks


With the country in lockdown and having more spare time than ever before, there has been a concerning rise in food businesses operating out of people’s homes and selling on social media. Many of these businesses have been set up by people who have lost their jobs or are on furlough, including professional chefs hit by the closure of restaurants. Instead of opening the next market stall or restaurant, they are using the power of Instagram and Facebook to try and succeed in the crowded market.

However, the food safety watchdog has issued an alert that Britons could be putting their health at serious risk as many of these ‘home-cookers’ are not registering as official food businesses, meaning that their food hygiene arrangements are not checked. They are operating under the radar and often you won’t find any trace of them outside of Instagram, not even a website. They simply post a picture of something freshly prepared and the rest of the conversations happens on a ‘DM’ to decide on the price and the location from where the order is to be picked up.


There has been a “concerning” rise in food businesses operating out of people’s homes during lockdown, according to the food safety watchdog.

Many of them are selling food through social media, putting further pressure on a hygiene inspection system that is under strain because of the crisis.

And other experts are also worried.

“Little food businesses are popping up like mushrooms in lockdown,” said Julie Barratt from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

“There are rank outsiders operating off the radar, who think, ‘Oh, my mum can cook’, and confuse cooking with catering,” she added. They sell to locals on apps such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Nextdoor.

Many are failing to register as food businesses, meaning their hygiene arrangements are not checked by local authorities.

But even those that do register are often not getting an inspection – despite new businesses usually being a priority – because the system is struggling to keep up during the pandemic.

Hygiene inspections ceased completely during the first lockdown and since then a scaled-back operation has focused on high-risk cases.

EU – Stable Campylobacter and Salmonella cases in the EU


The number of reported cases of illnesses caused by Campylobacter  and  Salmonella bacteria   in humans in Europe appear to level off over the past five years, according to the  latest zoonoses report released by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Campylobacteriosis, the most frequently reported gastrointestinal disease in the EU since 2005, affected more than 220,000 people in 2019. Salmonellosis was the second most frequently reported zoonosis in the EU, with around 88,000 people affected.

Of the 66,113 ready-to-eat food samples – foods that did not require cooking before consumption – 0.3% tested positive for  Salmonella . Of the 191,181 non-ready-to-eat food samples, 1.5% tested positive. 18 of the 26 Member States reporting on programs to control  Salmonella  in poultry populations met all their reduction targets, up from 14 in 2018.

The next most frequently reported diseases are   shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), yersiniosis and listeriosis. The trend in confirmed human cases of listeriosis remained stable between 2015 and 2019, after a long period of increase. 2,621 cases were reported in 2019, mostly affecting individuals over the age of 64. It is the most serious disease, with high rates of hospitalization (92%) and mortality (17.6%).

The report also looks at the cause of outbreaks of foodborne illness in the EU, i.e. outbreaks in which two or more people contract the same disease after consuming the same contaminated food. Salmonella  remains the most frequently detected agent and causes 926 outbreaks; the number of outbreaks due to  S . Enteritidis  , on the other hand, has declined. The most common sources of outbreaks of salmonellosis were eggs and egg products. Noroviruses in fish and fishery products cause the greatest number of outbreaks (145) with “strong evidence” involving a food source.

A total of 5,175 outbreaks of foodborne illness were reported in 2019, a decrease of 12.3% from 2018.

The report also contains data on  Mycobacterium bovis / caprae ,  Brucella ,  Yersinia ,  Trichinella ,  Echinococcus ,  Toxoplasma  gondii , rabies, Q fever, West Nile virus and tularemia.

▸ Source

UK – The FSA reveals that 50% of adults do not always check the use-by date on their food putting themselves and family at risk


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) new snapshot poll of 2,132 adults aged 16-75 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland reveals half of adults do not always check the use-by date on their food before eating it.

Findings show that 44% view use-by dates as a ‘useful guide’ – not realising the potential health risks of getting food poisoning, which could make them or their family seriously ill.

According to the poll, 50% of adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, cannot identify the correct definition for a use-by date: that is, that food can be eaten until the use-by date, but not safely after. This is in contrast to the best before date, which is about quality, and food eaten past this date might not taste as good.

The research also showed that 76% of these adults have knowingly eaten food past the use-by date, with 37% admitting to cooking food for other people that is past its use-by date – which rises to 43% people aged 25-34 years old.

The poll revealed 77% of people decide whether food is safe to eat by smelling it, which rises to 80% of women compared to 73% of men.

Professor Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor at the FSA said:

“These findings are worrying. They indicate that people are often confused about food dates, potentially putting themselves and others at risk of illness. A use-by date on food is there for a reason. It is about safety. After the use-by date you cannot cook, freeze or eat the food safely, even if it smells or looks ok. It’s really not possible to tell whether food is safe to eat by smelling or tasting it. We would like everyone to take the use-by dates on their food seriously.”

Dr Dawn Harper, spokesperson for the campaign commented:

“It’s so important to understand that best before and use-by dates are not the same. If you eat food past the use-by date it could make you or your family seriously ill. I’ve treated a number of patients for food poisoning over the years, and it can be particularly nasty to those more vulnerable to infection such as young children and elderly people. Make sure you’re looking after yourself and always checking the use-by date to keep you and your family safe and healthy.”

According to the poll, of those adults who sometimes eat food past the use-by date, 43% do so believing that if food is just past the use-by date, it’s safe to eat. Over half (51%) continue to eat food past the use-by date because they’ve done it before and felt fine and 59% say they eat food past the use-by date because they don’t want it to go to waste.

Professor Robin May continues:

“It’s great that people are trying to minimise food waste, but there are lots of ways to do that without gambling with your health, such as planning your meals ahead of time, checking what you have in the fridge that’s close to its use-by date and freezing food right up until the use-by date.”

Findings also show that 39% of 16-24 year olds reported they were more likely to pay attention to the use-by date during the lockdown in February 2021, compared to before the pandemic (March 2020). 55-75s are the group least likely to change their behaviour when it comes to checking use-by dates, with 90% reporting no change in behaviour.

You can find more advice on use-by dates on our Best before and use-by dates page.

About this poll

The Research poll completed by Ipsos Mori based on 2,132 respondents across all adults aged 16-75 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,132 adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aged 16-75 online between 5 and 8 March 2021. Data are weighted to the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

Last week we published the Food in a Pandemic report which explored people’s experiences of food during COVID-19, and the findings from our Food and You 2 survey which provides  more detailed information on the public’s self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour regarding food safety, including use-by dates.

Research – Exploring Listeria monocytogenes perceptions in small and medium sized food manufacturers: technical leaders’ perceptions of risk, control and responsibility

Science Direct

Due to its ability to colonise, grow and form in niches in food manufacturing environments, the management of Listeria monocytogenes can be complex, particularly for food manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition to an effective food safety management system, the perceptions of risk, control and responsibility within a food manufacturing business are important influential factors associated with the management of L. monocytogenes. Research exploring managerial perspectives of L. monocytogenes in food manufacturer SMEs is lacking. Consequently, this study conducted in-depth interviews (n=10) with technical leaders from food manufacturing SMEs to ascertain factors that may influence listeria management, such as factors associated with cultural dimensions. Perceived risks associated with L. monocytogenes were related to business reputation and consumer health impacts, but such events were perceived to be unlikely. Technical leaders reported having clearly defined and well executed processes to ensure food safety; but for some, L. monocytogenes, as a single pathogen was seldom considered. Despite acknowledging that “everyone” had responsibility for ensuring control of the pathogen, technical leaders indicated that the ‘people’ attributes associated with organisational culture were difficult factors to control and manage. Trust in staff ability to assure food safety was widely discussed, with technical leaders acknowledging that food handlers may not necessarily have specific knowledge regarding L. monocytogenes. Some technical leaders perceived themselves as having the greatest levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes. Overall, technical leaders perceived a medium level of risk, with high levels of control and high levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes. Optimistic bias, illusion of invulnerability, illusion of control, and perceived attribution of responsibility are discussed, which may hinder implementation of effective listeria management in SME food manufacturing businesses. Consideration of specific pathogen risks in food manufacture in relation to food safety cultural dimensions may assist development of highly targeted and effective interventions.