Category Archives: Research

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


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


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


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.

UK – Listeria legislation not broken – don’t fix it!

Chilled Food Association

CFA, its members and their retail customers, have long been at the forefront of the development
of best practice, control and regulation of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in the UK, Europe and beyond. CFA’s various Listeria guidance documents are available as free downloads.

European listeriosis data consistently show UK rates to be half of that for Europe overall. Outside the UK, commercial enforcement by customers is often lacking and differing interpretations of regulations lead to a lack of consistent compliance.

Against this background the European Commission is expected to propose changes to Lm legislation (EU Microbiological Criteria for Foodstuffs Regulation 2073/2005). This is expected to require challenge testing to set shelf life, rather than the established and proven effective Day of Production (DOP) and End of Life (EOL) approach, coupled with storage trials.

The expected changes will particularly affect chilled foods made on the Continent, where shelf lives are substantially longer than those in the UK’s tightly controlled local market – but changes would also impact export to the EU. Increased waste would result from consequent reduced shelf lives, with increased prices from highly specialised and narrowly applicable testing – all with questionable food safety benefits.

“The EU’s approach is also flawed in that it only covers the testing of food and does not address critical hygienic control of the food production environment. We can see no obvious public health or sustainability benefit to the changes and will continue to lobby the EC to retain the DOP/EOL and storage trial approach as it is demonstrably highly effective. In short, when it comes to European Listeria legislation – it’s not broken, please don’t fix it!”

USA – The amount of coastal water that can harbor harmful Vibrio bacteria has spiked 56%. One species is flesh-eating.

Business Insider


The amount of coastal water in which harmful bacteria can live has increased 56% over the past few decades, a report published Wednesday found.

That bacteria family, called Vibrio, lives in salty or brackish coastal waters, including in the US and Canada. The infection it causes, vibriosis, is usually contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood or by exposing a wound to bacteria-infested seawater. Mild cases resolve in about three days, but Vibrio can also cause severe diseases, including gastroenteritis, life-threatening cholera, dangerous wound infections, and sepsis.

One species of Vibrio bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is referred to as flesh-eating because the bacteria can aggressively destroy body tissue. Those infections, though rare, often require intensive care or amputation. And they can be fatal, killing one in five infected people, usually within two days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reasons Vibrio is becoming a greater threat are that sea surface temperatures are rising and seawater is getting saltier. That’s one of many alarming findings from the medical journal The Lancet’s sixth annual report on health and climate change. In it, researchers from academia and the United Nations tracked 44 indicators of health effects linked to climate change.

Research – Prevalence of E. coli Sequence Type 131as a foodborne pathogen in Swiss chicken

Click to access Wetzel%20and%20Fieseler_E.%20coli%20ST131_Prevalence.pdf

Research – Effect of Direct Viral–Bacterial Interactions on the Removal of Norovirus From Lettuce

Frontiers in Microbiology

Norovirus Food Safety kswfoodworld

Norovirus (NoV) is the main non-bacterial pathogen causing outbreaks of gastroenteritis and is considered to be the leading cause of foodborne illness. This study aims to determine whether lettuce-encapsulated bacteria can express histo-blood group antigen (HBGA)–like substances to bind to NoV and, if so, to explore its role in protecting NoV from disinfection practices. Fifteen bacterial strains (HBGA-SEBs) were isolated from the lettuce microbiome and studied as they were proved to have the ability to express HBGA-like substances through indirect ELISA detection. By using attachment assay, HBGA-SEBs showed great abilities in carrying NoVs regarding the evaluation of binding capacity, especially for the top four strains from genera WautersiellaSphingobacterium, and Brachybacterium, which could absorb more than 60% of free-flowing NoVs. Meanwhile, the direct viral–bacterial binding between HBGA-like substance-expressing bacteria (HBGA-SEB) and NoVs was observed by TEM. Subsequently, results of simulated environmental experiments showed that the binding of NoVs with HBGA-SEBs did have detrimental effects on NoV reduction, which were evident in short-time high-temperature treatment (90°C) and UV exposure. Finally, by considering the relative abundance of homologous microorganisms of HBGA-SEBs in the lettuce microbiome (ca. 36.49%) and the reduction of NoVs in the simulated environments, we suggested putting extra attention on the daily disinfection of foodborne-pathogen carriers to overcome the detrimental effects of direct viral–bacterial interactions on the reduction of NoVs.

Research – Risk evaluation of E. coli ST 131 as a foodborne pathogen in Switzerland


Within recent years, the topic of multidrug-resistant, uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains has seen a rise in occurrence as foodborne pathogens. At the core of this topic is the specific clonal group referred to as Escherichia coli O25b:H4 sequence type 131 (ST 131). It is an extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) producing E. coli strain, postulated to be responsible for the spread of ESBL-encoding genes world-wide.
This literature review aimed to evaluate ST 131 as a foodborne pathogen in Switzerland, in order to assess the risk it poses for food producers in Switzerland specifically. On a global scale, ST 131 has been identified on all continents. It is mostly associated with chicken and poultry meat, and has been isolated from retail products many times.
Not exclusive to chicken, it was rarely identified from fish guts and gills. In all other meat products, ST 131 was found only in faecal matter, not in the product itself. Besides meat, the pathogen was not identified from any sources such as dairy, fruit and vegetables.
The situation is similar in Switzerland, where it was isolated frequently from chicken, rarely from fish and a complete absence of the pathogen in all other food product groups. The risk, ST 131 poses towards Swiss food producers has been evaluated as a medium risk factor for both chicken and fish products, and a low risk factor for any other products. Despite ST 131 being evaluated as a medium-to-low risk factor, depending on the product, it is still recommended to perform further research on the topic. Especially looking towards prevalence in Swiss food, in chicken and poultry meat, but also in fish.
Specifically fish designated for raw consumption (Sushi, Sashimi). Moreover, the spread of afore-mentioned ESBL-encoding genes is hypothesized to occur also during infection of humans. This leads to the recommendation, that ST 131 should be considered a food-safety risk in all products, in order to eliminate said spread. Whether this consideration as a food-safety risk is feasible, cannot be said without further analysis of products and viable treatment options.

India – FSSAI guidelines for sampling for microbiological analysis

FNB News

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a draft on guidelines for sampling for microbiological analysis.

The guidelines prescribe the general requirement for microbiological sampling, sampling plan, sampling tools, equipment & material, sampling procedure, labelling of sample, storage & transportation and food category wise sampling procedures.

According to the FSSAI, the microbiological analysis was vital to verify the compliance with the criteria laid down in Food Safety and Standards Regulations, food safety management system and process control, compliance of individual batches, and general information on the microbiological status of certain products placed on the market. Further, the analysis will help in monitoring and surveillance of food products along with investigation of suspected food-borne outbreaks, customer complaints.

Ashwin Bhadri, CEO, Equinox Labs, says that the sampling process ensures that the food quality hasn’t been compromised. Sampling is one of the best ways to know in which state food can be preserved for consumption without contamination.

He said, “For the betterment of people, adhering to the regulatory guidelines when it comes to sampling becomes essential. Consumer safety is foremost and following those policies assures that they are safeguarded. In India, FSSAI has introduced guidelines that every food product should undergo microbiology sampling before it is consumed.”

He explains, “It examines the compliance of individual batches. Microbiological sampling is undertaken by authorised people who are experienced and trained in those processes. They select the samples from the huge lot that allows a sample to stand for a whole lot and give the right decision concerning quality, contamination and shelf life of food products. Sampling and testing are absolutely necessary as it helps to verify the compliance laid down as per the Food Safety and Standards Regulations. The procedure of microbiological sampling and testing allows the investigation of customer complaints and also to suspect food-borne outbreaks if any.”

The guidelines were approved by the Scientific Panel on Methods of Sampling & Analysis in a meeting recently.  And FSSAI has sought comments from the stakeholders on the same.