Category Archives: Research

Belgium – DG Sante raises concerns on Belgian microbial controls

Food Safety News

Belgium’s system to prevent microbiological risks before and during harvest of certain foods has been criticized by the EU’s health and safety body. Officials in Belgium disagree.

A DG Sante audit found Belgium’s program is not designed to identify businesses that don’t have measures to stop the risk of contamination at these stages of production of food of non-animal origin (FNAO), which include fruits and vegetables.

The audit took place in late October 2020 but the coronavirus pandemic meant findings are based on a remote review of documentation and video interviews with officials. It was the second audit of official controls on FNAO in Belgium. A 2015 report made one recommendation but in the latest assessment DG Sante found the adopted measures were not sufficient.

Australia Research – Monitoring the incidence and causes of diseases potentially transmitted by food in Australia: Annual report of the OzFoodNet network, 2013–2015

Au Gov

This report summarises the incidence of diseases potentially transmitted by food in Australia, and details outbreaks associated with food that occurred during 2013–2015.
OzFoodNet sites reported an increasing number of notifications of 12 diseases or conditions that may be transmitted by food (botulism; campylobacteriosis; cholera; hepatitis A; hepatitis E; haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS); listeriosis; Salmonella Paratyphi (paratyphoid fever) infection; salmonellosis; shigellosis; Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli(STEC) infection; and Salmonella Typhi (typhoid fever) infection), with a total of 28,676 notifications received in 2013; 37,958 in 2014; and 41,226 in 2015.
The most commonly-notified conditions were campylobacteriosis (a mean of 19,061 notifications per year over 2013–2015) and salmonellosis (a mean of 15,336 notifications per year over 2013–2015). Over these three years, OzFoodNet sites also reported 512 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness caused by foodborne, animal-to-person or waterborne disease, affecting 7,877 people, and resulting in 735 hospitalisations and 18 associated deaths.
The majority of outbreaks (452/512; 88%) were due to foodborne or suspected foodborne transmission. The remaining 12% of outbreaks were due to waterborne or suspected waterborne transmission (57 outbreaks) and animal-to-human trans-mission (three outbreaks). Foodborne and suspected foodborne outbreaks affected 7,361 people, resulting in 705 hospitalisations and 18 deaths.
Salmonella was the most common aetiological agent identified in foodborne outbreaks (239/452; 53%), and restaurants were the most frequently-reported food preparation setting (211/452; 47%). There were 213 foodborne outbreaks (47%) attributed to a single food commodity during 2013–2015, with 58% (124/213) associated with the consumption of eggs and egg-based dishes.

Research – ECDC rapid risk assessment: increase in OXA-233 producing E.coli in the EU, EEA and UK since 2013


Article: 55/3005

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published an update to an existing risk assessment, first produced in response to evidence of healthcare associated transmission of OXA-244 producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the EU and EEA. A doubling of cases in the main cluster, and three new countries detecting cases, confirm the high risk for further spread of OXA-244 producing E. coli.

An urgent enquiry was made to ECDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Information System (EPIS), regarding a healthcare-associated outbreak involving 12 cases of OXA-244 producing E. coli in Norway. Subsequently, national public health reference laboratories in EU and EEA countries were invited to submit to ECDC whole genome sequencing (WGS) data, collected since the previous rapid risk assessment was published on 18 February 2020.

The analysis included WGS data submitted to ECDC from 13 countries, completed with data from the public domain. Among 458 isolates of E. coli ST38, 370 carried the blaOXA-244 gene encoding for the OXA-244 carbapenemase. Several clusters were identified, including one large cluster with 225 closely-related OXA-244-producing E. coli ST38 isolates. Of these, 210 isolates were detected in 11 EU and EEA countries and the UK, and 15 isolates were from other countries.

The source and route of transmission for OXA-244-producing E. coli in the EU, EEA and UK is currently unclear, and there is a need for further investigation to determine this so that control measures can be put in place. The wide geographical dispersion of cases within countries, without cases being linked in place and time, indicates transmission in the community as the main mode of spread.

Source: ECDC, 20 July 2021

UK – Report into the sources of human Campylobacter infection published


The Food Standards Agency has today published a study to further determine the principal sources of this foodborne disease.

A report published by the FSA confirms that chickens are the source of the majority of human cases of Campylobacter, followed by other animals such as sheep, pigs and cows. This infection may have been passed to people directly through food, but could also be via environmental and water contamination.

The Campylobacter Source Attribution Study, launched in 2015 as part of the FSA’s wider and ongoing Campylobacter Reduction Programme, also reveals an increase in antimicrobial resistance within Campylobacter strains between 1997 and 2018. Work is continuing in this area to determine the full impact.

FSA Head of science, evidence and research, Rick Mumford, said:

“We will use these findings to better understand the causes of Campylobacter infection, and to inform further work on foodborne transmission. This will also help to identify further research areas to explore as we seek to reduce the overall burden of Campylobacter infection in the UK.”

Around 300,000 human cases of Campylobacter are estimated to be acquired from food each year in the UK, out of a total of around 630,000 cases. Campylobacter lives in the intestinal tracts of a wide range of mammals, birds and even insects.

Researchers embarked on this project to determine the key reservoirs of human Campylobacter infections and help identify potentially effective risk management strategies. The project assessed patient samples from two locations – a representative urban site in North Tyneside and rural site in Oxfordshire – alongside foods sampled from retail in York, Salisbury and London.

With regards to antimicrobial resistance, the study revealed a rise in fluoroquinolone and tetracycline resistance in C.jejuni isolates from human infections between 1997 and 2018. Fluoroquinolone resistance was more frequent in C.jejuni isolates from  chicken than from other animals, whilst tetracycline resistance was more frequent in poultry and pig isolates than ruminants. Resistance to macrolides and aminoglycosides remain low.

The majority of people who are infected with Campylobacter recover fully and quickly, but it can cause long-term and severe health problems in some, including young children and the elderly.

You can help keep your family safe by cooking your food correctly, and avoiding cross-contamination through ensuring good personal hygiene.

Read the full report here. As part of the project, a data storyboard (Opens in a new window)was created and can be viewed online.


Food Industry Council

Food Industry Counsel is proud to offer the Food Recall Reporter, the only searchable food recall database that allows users to conduct a food recall search for FDA and USDA food product recalls. Search food and beverage recalls, the types of food products, the reasons for the recalls, and the names of the companies recalling the products.

Research – A Series of Papaya-Associated Salmonella Illness Outbreak Investigations in 2017 and 2019 – A Focus on Traceback, Laboratory, and Collaborative Efforts

Journal of Food Protection


In 2017 and 2019, five outbreaks of infections from multiple strains of Salmonella linked to the consumption of whole, fresh Maradol papayas were reported in the United States, resulting in 325 ill persons. Traceback, laboratory, and epidemiologic evidence indicated papayas as the likely vehicle for each of these outbreaks and identified the source of papayas. State and FDA laboratories recovered Salmonella from papaya samples from various points of distribution, including at import entry, and conducted serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and phylogenetic analyses of whole genome sequencing (WGS) data. Federal and state partners led traceback investigations to determine the source of papayas. Four different suppliers of papayas were linked by traceback and laboratory results to five separate outbreaks of Salmonella infections associated with papayas. In 2017, multiple states tested papaya samples collected at retail, and Maryland and Virginia investigators recovered strains of Salmonella associated with one outbreak. FDA collected 183 papaya samples in 2017, and 11 samples yielded 62 isolates of Salmonella. Eleven serotypes of Salmonella were recovered from FDA papaya samples, and nine serotypes were closely related genetically by PFGE and WGS to clinical isolates of four outbreaks, including the outbreak associated with positive state sample results. Four farms in Mexico were identified and their names were released to the general public, retailers, and foreign authorities. In 2019, FDA collected 119 papaya samples, three of which yielded Salmonella; none yielded the 2019 outbreak strain. Investigators determined that papayas of interest had been sourced from a single farm in Campeche, Mexico through traceback. This information was used to protect public health through public guidance, recalls, and import alerts and helped FDA collaborate with Mexican regulatory partners to enhance the food safety requirements for papayas imported from Mexico.

Research – Interactions between Microbial Food Safety and Environmental Sustainability in the Fresh Produce Supply Chain


Improving the environmental sustainability of the food supply chain will help to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This environmental sustainability is related to different SDGs, but mainly to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 15 (Life on Land). The strategies and measures used to improve this aspect of the food supply chain must remain in balance with other sustainability aspects (economic and social). In this framework, the interactions and possible conflicts between food supply chain safety and sustainability need to be assessed. Although priority must be given to safety aspects, food safety policies should be calibrated in order to avoid unnecessary deleterious effects on the environment. In the present review, a number of potential tensions and/or disagreements between the microbial safety and environmental sustainability of the fresh produce supply chain are identified and discussed. The addressed issues are spread throughout the food supply chain, from primary production to the end-of-life of the products, and also include the handling and processing industry, retailers, and consumers. Interactions of fresh produce microbial safety with topics such as food waste, supply chain structure, climate change, and use of resources have been covered. Finally, approaches and strategies that will prove useful to solve or mitigate the potential contradictions between fresh produce safety and sustainability are described and discussed. Upon analyzing the interplay between microbial safety and the environmental sustainability of the fresh produce supply chain, it becomes clear that decisions that are taken to ensure fresh produce safety must consider the possible effects on environmental, economic, and social sustainability aspects. To manage these interactions, a global approach considering the interconnections between human activities, animals, and the environment will be required. View Full-Text

Research – Bacteriophage Therapy to Reduce Colonization ofCampylobacter jejuniin Broiler Chickens before Slaughter

Click to access viruses-13-01428.pdf

Research – Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, or Salmonella on Whole Yellow Onions (Allium cepa) Exposed to Hot Water

Journal of Food Protection

In-home or food service antimicrobial treatment options for fresh produce are limited. Hot water treatments for whole (unpeeled) produce have been proposed but data to support this practice for onions are not available. Separate cocktails of rifampin-resistant Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes , or Salmonella were cultured on agar and suspended in sterile water. The outer papery skin at the equator or root or stem ends of the whole yellow onions was spot inoculated at 6 log CFU/onion. After drying for 30 min and, in some cases, storage at 4°C for 6 days, onions were immersed in water at ~100°C for 5 s or 85°C for 10 to 180 s. There was no significant difference ( P > 0.05) in the mean decline of Salmonella on onions that were exposed to hot water after drying the inoculum for 30 min or after storage at 4°C for 6 days. Exposure of whole onions at 100°C for 5 s reduced E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes populations by >5 log CFU/onion at all inoculum sites and Salmonella populations by >5 log CFU/onion at the stem end and equator but not consistently at the root end. Mean root-end reductions of ≥5 log CFU/onion of E. coli O157:H7, L. monocytogenes , or Salmonella were achieved consistently when the root end was fully immersed in 85°C hot water for 45 or 60 s, except in a small number of cases (4/57; 7%) when the root end oriented above the water line during treatment. When onions were held at 85°C for 180 s with the root end above the water line in an uncovered water bath, no significant declines in Salmonella populations were observed; significant mean declines of Salmonella were achieved (mean 5 log CFU/onion [range 3.49 to 6.25]) when the water bath was covered. Short exposure to hot water can significantly reduce pathogens on the surface of whole onions; reductions are more consistent when the root end is submerged, or when the water bath is covered.

Research – Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Outbreaks in the United States, 2010–2017


Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) cause illnesses ranging from mild diarrhea to ischemic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); serogroup O157 is the most common cause. We describe the epidemiology and transmission routes for U.S. STEC outbreaks during 2010–2017. Health departments reported 466 STEC outbreaks affecting 4769 persons; 459 outbreaks had a serogroup identified (330 O157, 124 non-O157, 5 both). Among these, 361 (77%) had a known transmission route: 200 foodborne (44% of O157 outbreaks, 41% of non-O157 outbreaks), 87 person-to-person (16%, 24%), 49 animal contact (11%, 9%), 20 water (4%, 5%), and 5 environmental contamination (2%, 0%). The most common food category implicated was vegetable row crops. The distribution of O157 and non-O157 outbreaks varied by age, sex, and severity. A significantly higher percentage of STEC O157 than non-O157 outbreaks were transmitted by beef (p = 0.02). STEC O157 outbreaks also had significantly higher rates of hospitalization and HUS (< 0.001).