Category Archives: Microbiology Investigations

Research – An assessment of the microbiological quality and safety of unpasteurised milk cheese for sale in England during 2019 – 2020

Journal of Food Protection

Cheese made with unpasteurised milk has been associated with outbreaks of illness. However, there are limited data on the prevalence of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in these products, and a lack of clarity over the significance of E. coli as general indicators of hygiene in raw milk cheeses. The aim of this study was to provide further data to address both of these issues as well as assessing the overall microbiological quality of raw milk cheeses available to consumers in England. A total of 629 samples of cheese were collected from retailers, catering premises and manufacturers throughout England. The majority (80%) were made using cow’s milk with 14% made from sheep’s milk and 5% from goat’s milk. Samples were from 18 different countries of origin, with the majority originating from either the UK (40%) or France (35%). When interpreted against EU microbiological criteria and UK guidance, 82% were considered to be of satisfactory microbiological quality, 5% were borderline and 12% were unsatisfactory. Four samples (0.6%) were potentially injurious to health due to the isolation of STEC from one, >10 4 cfu/g of coagulase positive staphylococci in two and >100 cfu/g of Listeria monocytogenes in the fourth sample. Indicator E. coli and Listeria species were detected more frequently in soft compared to hard cheese. Higher levels of indicator E. coli were significantly associated with a greater likelihood of detecting shiga toxin genes ( stx 1 and/or stx 2).

Research- Estimation of the Impact of Foodborne Salmonellosis on Consumer Well-Being in Hungary

MDPI

In Hungary, salmonellosis is one of the most frequent foodborne illnesses. According to our estimation, based on a representative consumer survey with 1001 respondents, the annual number of salmonellosis cases exceeded 90,000, which was 18 times higher than the officially reported data. Salmonellosis infections impose significant direct and indirect costs to the health care system, to companies (as employers) and to households. This study focused on the cost to households by analysing well-being losses due to Salmonella infections, for which the WTP (willingness-to-pay) method was used. WTP measures the cost that an individual would pay to avoid an undesirable harm or health outcome. For estimating WTP, 456 respondents gave quantifiable answers. The average WTP to avoid salmonellosis was 86.3 EUR. Based on this data, the total consumer well-being loss could be estimated to be about 7.87 million EUR per year in Hungary. These results indicate that consumers’ well-being losses alone would necessitate further interventions for Salmonella reduction.

Research – Survival of Salmonella enterica in Military Low Moisture Food Products during Long Term Storage at 4°C, 25°C and 40°C

Journal of Food Protection

Salmonella enterica  has been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks involving low moisture foods (LMF) during the recent decade. This study aimed to investigate the potential for persistence of  Salmonella enterica  in a range of low moisture foods (LMF) during storage at 3 temperatures. LMF products, boil-in-bag eggs (freeze dried product), chocolate protein drink, cran-raspberry first strike bars, mocha dessert bar, and peanut butter, were inoculated with a five strain cocktail of S. enterica and stored at 4°C, 25°C, or 40°C for 36 mos. Salmonella populations remained above 7 log CFU/g in all products stored at 4°C and above 6 log CFU/g in products stored at 25°C excluding the cran-raspberry bars. Storage at 40°C resulted in Salmonella populations above 5.5 log CFU/g in boil-in-bag eggs after 36 mos and demonstrated survivability for 12 mos or less in the other five products.  Additionally, a mocha bar production temperature profile study identified rapid cooling of bars in which the temperatures reached would have no measurable impact on  Salmonella  populations. The results indicate the ability of  Salmonella  to survive in a variety of LMF category foods even under adverse storage conditions and identifies how the food matrix may affect  Salmonella  survivability. The data indicate the importance of establishing food processing procedures that adequately mitigate the presence of Salmonella throughout food processing systems while also increasing comprehensive understanding of Salmonella survivability mechanisms.

Research -Surveillance of Fresh Artisanal Cheeses Revealed High Levels of Listeria monocytogenes Contamination in the Department of Quindío, Colombia

MDPI

Listeriosis is a foodborne disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Because outbreaks of listeriosis are associated with the ingestion of contaminated dairy products, surveillance of artisanal cheeses to detect the presence of this microorganism is necessary. We collected three types of artisanal non-acid fresh cheese (Campesino, Costeño, and Cuajada) from 12 municipalities of the Department of Quindío, Colombia. L. monocytogenes was identified using VIDAS® and confirmed with API® Listeria Rapid Kit. L. monocytogenes was detected in 104 (53.6%) of the 194 artisanal fresh-cheese samples analyzed. The highest percentages of contamination were detected in Salento (90.9%), Calracá (65.5%), Armenia (64.9%), and Filandia (50%). A significant association between municipality and contamination with L. monocytogenes was identified. However, no association could be established between the type of cheese and the occurrence of the bacterium. This is the first study on the presence of L. monocytogenes in artisanal fresh cheeses sold in the municipalities of the Department of Quindío, and the findings revealed very high percentages of contaminated samples. The presence of L. monocytogenes in artisanal cheeses remains a public health threat in developing countries, especially Colombia, where existing legislation does not require the surveillance of L. monocytogenes in food. View Full-Text

UK – The Global Food Safety Incidents and Emergency Response Conference 2021

FSA

Last week, after six months of planning, the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland jointly hosted the entirely virtual GFSIER Conference 2021.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended over the three days. As a team, the Incidents and Resilience Unit are delighted to have had 650 registered delegates representing over 80 countries.

It proved really productive and was such a positive experience to meet worldwide counterparts and establish new contacts within the regulatory and food systems.

Aims of the conference

The conference aimed to address how to enhance food safety and food security in a changing world.

It enabled us to come together to explore how we can improve global food security through sharing of best practice, working collaboratively and learning from each other.

The event also focused on keeping food safety incident and crisis response high on the agenda.

Reflecting on the three days and working with my team to plan for the future, I really do think we achieved what we set out to do.

Day one – Food safety regulators around the world

Professor Susan Jebb, FSA Chair, opened the conference discussing the current challenges in the world of food safety.

Co-operationco-ordinationcommunicationdata sharing and new technologies were all high on the agenda.

Dr Francesco Branca, Head of Nutrition and Food Safety at the World Health Organization, started the response to these challenges by talking about the role of INFOSAN in food safety incidents and the broader food system.

A key conclusion was that, due to the improved technologies and methods to detect and monitor food safety events, there is, and will continue to be, a higher number of food safety incidents statistically.

This does not necessarily mean that there are more food safety events, but rather that more existing events are being detected. This improved detection can only benefit us and our counterparts around the world in improving prevention.

Of course, with the continued rise of global food trade we can expect an increase in complex, international food safety incidents. This alone highlights the importance for nations and stakeholders being actively involved in international food safety networks, allowing us all to open and maintain vital communication channels.

Discussions on the first day covered surveillance and data, new technology in incident management and food authenticity and food crime.

There is a lot of work around surveillance and data happening across the globe and the importance of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and predicative modelling is key.

We must focus on how we are working and collaborating in the development of ever more sophisticated tools for the sharing of data. We must ensure we keep up with greater demands in the future for analysing and interpretating evidence.

AI will be important in assisting with the resource implications of increased detection of incidents.

Other new technologies highlighted by the conference included new analytical techniques being used to assess food authenticity and identify food fraud, remote surveillance made possible using mobile phone and camera recordings, and whole genome sequencing to identify food outbreaks which in previous years we would never have identified.

Social science is also playing a part in food safety in helping us to understand not just what consumers are eating, but allowing us to listen to consumers and understand their concerns. Overall, I think we are in a good place as regulators to set high standards as we embrace new technology.

Day two – International collaboration and food safety

The conference benefited from input from all four UK devolved nations over the three days. it was useful to hear from the Northern Ireland and Welsh Food Advisory Committees to open day two.

How we work and co-ordinate across the four nations is invaluable and sets an example for how other countries can collaborate both internally and internationally.

The food industry was inevitably at the heart of most discussions covered by the conference.

It was great to hear from Steve Purser from Tesco PLC, to learn about industry priorities and food safety challenges from a different perspective. It was clear that collaboration and information sharing are high on the food industry’s agenda too.

Representatives from industry, regulators and public health authorities then joined me to reflect on best practice and share their top tips from an incident or emergency that they had been involved in. Learning from our own and others’ experience is invaluable, and I hope such lessons have proved useful for all the delegates.

The outbreaks, risk communication and crisis management breakout sessions added further insight as to where we should focus our attention.

We are always aiming for more open data sharing as well as good integration of all available sources including epidemiological, environmental, food chain and microbiological information.

Various platforms exist for sharing genomic data and I see potential for expanding the scope and use of other platforms, including INFOSAN. Communication of risks requires partnership working and we need to consider other nations’ access to systems and capacity to deal with food incidents, while supporting each other to improve where we can.

A phrase used regularly during the conference was ‘honest uncertainty’ and I believe being open and transparent, even when pressed for a quick answer is important.

With the food safety challenges we face, increasing crisis management and incident response is a global challenge, not bound by borders.

We are building new partnerships all the time and I look forward to seeing these relationships develop as we tackle more issues together.

Day three – Global priorities for food safety

The final day of the conference was opened by Ross Finnie, FSS Chair. He provided insight into priorities and challenges for the UK and fellow regulators. This set us up for a day of debate and discussion, allowing us to pull together learnings and objectives to take forward.

Having Dr Peter Ben Embarek, Head of WHO One Health Initiative (OHI) and Steve Wearne, Director, Global Affairs, Food Standards Agency and Vice Chair of Codex Alimentarius Commission present, really brought home how food is a global commodity and how food safety is a global challenge.

You can read Steve Wearne’s post-event article about Codex on LinkedIn.

To finish we welcomed colleagues from around the globe to give their views on harmonisation and best practice across differing international regulatory systems and future challenges for industry and regulators.

FSA Chief Executive Emily Miles and FSS Chief Executive Geoff Ogle brought the conference to a close as they summed up the debate and shared key learnings and challenges with delegates.

As I reflect on the conference, the things my team and I will take away are:

  • the importance of data sharing and the benefits of getting it right;
  • the part we play in improving public trust in us as regulators;
  • how we can utilise information sources available to us and;
  • how we can support countries with less capacity to deal with food incidents.

All in all, a really interesting three days – thank you to everyone involved.

Taiwan – 142 fall ill with suspected food poisoning at New Taipei school

Focus Taiwan

Taipei, Oct. 21 (CNA) A total of 142 students and faculty members at Sacred Heart Girls High School in New Taipei were taken to hospitals early Thursday after coming down with stomach pain and diarrhea, in what is believed to be a case of mass food poisoning, the school said.

The 142 people, who lodged in the school’s dormitories, fell ill after eating meals provided by a catering service contracted by the school Wednesday evening, the school’s principal Sophie Wei (魏雪玲) told CNA.

The New Taipei Department of Health has collected samples of the food for analysis and is awaiting the results. Meanwhile, meals will now be provided by a different catering service for the time being, according to the school.

USA – ProSource Inc. Recalls Onions From Mexico For Salmonella Contamination

Food Poisoning Bulletin

ProSource Inc. is voluntarily recalling onions from Mexico for Salmonella contamination. The onions are linked to a multistate Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak that has sickened at least 652 people in 37 states. The onions were shipped from Mexico between July 1, 2021 and August 31, 2021.

The brand names that the onions may have been sold under include Big Bull, Peak Fresh Produce, Sierra Madre, Markon First Crop., Markon Essentials, Rio Blue, ProSource, Rio Valley, and Sysco Imperial. The recalled products are whole raw fresh red, yellow, and white onions. The onions were distributed to wholesalers, broadline foodservice companies, and retail stores in 50 pound, 25 pound, 10 pound, 5 pound, 3 pound, and 2 pound mesh sacks; and 50 pound, 40 pound, 25 pound, 10 pound, and 5 pound cartons. You can see pictures of product labels at the FDA web site.

USA – Keeler Family Farms Supplied Onions Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

Food Poisoning Bulletin

Keeler Family Farms of Deming, New Mexico supplied potentially contaminated onions linked to the huge Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak, according to an FDA update. That outbreak has sickened at least 652 people in 37 states and has hospitalized 129 patients.

India – 25 ITBP personnel fell ill in Chhattisgarh due to food poisoning

Hindustan Times

As many as 25 personnel of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) fell ill with symptoms of food poisoning after consuming a meal in their camp in Rajanandgaon district, officials said on Friday.

They fell ill after having dinner on Wednesday evening. They complained of the symptoms on Thursday. All were admitted to Community Health Centre (CHC) in Khairagarh town and are now stable,” said Collector Rajanandgaon, Taran Prakash Sinha.

“Prima facie, it seems they fell sick due to food poisoning. However, their condition is stable and they were kept under observation,” said Dr Vivek Bisen of the CHC Khairagarh.

Bali – 21 students in Lombok got food poisoning after eating deep fried tempe

Coconuts Bali

Dozens of students from a madrasah (Islamic school) in Central Lombok are suspected to have gotten food poisoning after snacking on deep fried tempe, for which they had to be taken to the local community clinic (Puskesmas).

West Praya sub-precinct chief, Heri Indrayanto, said in a statement that the students bought the deep fried tempe from a street vendor identified as M and ate them with chili sauce during recess.

“It is suspected that the victims got food poisoning after eating the fried tempe with chili sauce,” Heri said.

Fifteen minutes after consuming the fritter, the students started to get headaches and felt nauseous, while some started vomiting. They were then taken to the nearest Puskesmas for treatment.

Heri said a total of 21 students had food poisoning, and even the seller M also experienced the same symptoms. Authorities had seized all the ingredients and sent them for a lab test at the Health Agency in Central Lombok.