Big topics from around the world in 2021: Ethylene oxide, COVID-19 impact, global outbreaks

– Analytics –

Three of the issues that appeared on the 2020 news agenda have been carried through to 2021 and none of them have remained out of the public eye so far. Coronavirus, the UK’s departure from the EU and ethylene oxide pollution are sure to demand coverage as we approach 2022.

2021 also gave us a glimpse into how pathogens are not respecting borders, group B streptococcus in Hong Kong, edible insect developments, and another year of major salmonella outbreaks in the UK.

1) Impact of COVID-19 measures on foodborne infections

Some research has been done and more is underway to analyze the impact of the epidemic on foodborne disease reporting. The report of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) highlights this in full regarding disease and disease outbreaks in 2020. Regular food safety news Readers may have guessed the direction of the numbers from coverage of national statistics, but the reported 47 percent decrease in outbreaks and 61 percent in diseases may even surprise them.

One interesting point was that agents that caused serious illness such as botulism or listeriosis were not reduced as much as, say, norovirus, which is annoying but rarely fatal.

We now know that many measures, including reduced travel and closed food businesses, are factors to consider, but more people have been cooking at home so the risk areas have changed. We’ll have to wait for the 2021 numbers, but I suspect as travel and lab capacity increases again online, it will go up. However, I would be surprised if we go back to the levels seen in 2019 before the pandemic.

2) Global world: the international outbreak

Over the past three quarters, events involving the International Network of Food Safety Authorities (INFOSAN) have risen. Is this better reporting or more accidents? It depends who you listen to, but we can agree that this year has seen some outbreaks in Europe as well as the United States and Canada.

An outbreak of salmonella branddrop in several countries affected more than 350 people, and was traced to Gallia melons from Honduras. Four people were sick in the United States and two in Canada, while most cases came from the United Kingdom and Europe.

Another example is the spread of different types of salmonella linked to tahini and halva from Syria. The United States has reported six cases of Salmonella Mbandaka, one in 2020 and the rest this year. Canada has eight confirmed cases: five from Salmonella Mbandaka, two from Salmonella Havana and one from Salmonella Orion from 2019 to 2021. In Europe, at least 121 people have been affected since January 2019. With increased global trade and better technology to link the infection, this aspect is manifold. Countries is something we may see more of in the future.

3) Ethylene oxide incident

The number of recalls and recalls due to ethylene oxide in products now must be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Belgium raised the warning for the first time in September 2020 regarding sesame seeds from India. It was later found in additives including bean gum (E410). Ethylene oxide is not allowed in Europe to disinfect food. While salmonella was initially to be treated, some believe examples of contamination could be because it is also being applied to disinfect warehouses and transport containers.

The European Union has already tightened the rules and will start at the beginning of January 2022 to include ethylene oxide controls for imports of xanthan, guar gum, spices and some other products. We’ve seen not all EU countries are happy with the blanket take-back approach and it has caused legal problems, but the long shelf life of products and the wide range of potentially affected foods mean finding the right balance is difficult.

4) Salmonella outbreak in the UK

Now that the UK has left the EU – we’ll get to that in a minute – the outbreaks are not covered in a great deal of detail in the aforementioned EFSA and ECDC report and the latest published national figures from 2017. So, putting together the pieces from the jigsaw we’re going to highlight Salmonella again, as it was on the 2020 tour.

We have 139 Salmonella enteritidis infections in 2021 as part of about 900 cases associated with pet owners who handled frozen feeder mice from 2014. A pork scratch outbreak of Salmonella infantis with 534 sick people is believed to be the largest one of this type of salmonella ever reported. at all in Europe. Despite the Tayto Group’s recall and production halt at the plant, illnesses were still reported months later.

The United Kingdom was the hardest-hit country with more than 100 confirmed patients in the watermelon outbreak noted above, and two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis in frozen, raw and box-covered chicken products from Poland have caused more than 500 illnesses since January 2020 and one death.

5) The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union

There are many aspects that make the UK no longer an EU member state such as labor issues and loss of access to systems such as the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

One focus of Brexit is the UK’s delay in border controls on food products from the EU. Checks on some EU imports, including fish, have been postponed to November 2022. They have already been postponed three times. The European Union carried out checks on similar goods exported from Great Britain as of January 2021.

Authentication and physical examinations of high-risk animal products, all meat and meat products, and high-risk foods that are not of animal origin are scheduled to begin in July 2022, with controls on dairy products beginning in September and all other products of animal origin including compounds and fish products starting in September. From November, according to the Institute of Export and International Trade.

The need for prior notification to the Animal and Plant Health Agency or the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of SPS imports from the European Union, using the Import Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS), comes into effect on 1 January 2022.

6) Updated EU control system

A new online portal launched for European public health authorities is designed to collect, analyze, share and discuss disease data in order to detect and monitor threats, assess risks and respond to outbreaks.

The European Surveillance Portal for Infectious Diseases (EpiPulse) was launched in June 2021 and integrates several surveillance systems such as the European Surveillance System (TESSy) and the Five Epidemiology Information System (EPIS) platforms including the Food and Waterborne Disease System. It is only open to designated experts.

By June 2022, it is expected that the EFSA Inter-European Whole Genome Sequence Database will be operational with isolates from food products and ECDC with clinical isolates from humans.

7) Group B Streptococcus in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has reported outbreaks of group B streptococcus associated with handling fish with some cases belonging to sequence type 283 (ST283). This is the same type that affected up to 150 people in Singapore in 2015 from eating raw freshwater fish. It was not known that invasive GBS was transmitted through food prior to this incident. Nearly 20 infections were reported in July 2020 but the source has not been found. Incursions of GBS ST283 have also been recorded in China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

8) Edible insects

The European Union is about to put indoor crickets on the list of new foods, adding this insect to those approved as food. It is the third insect to gain approval after the migratory locust and the yellow mealworm. A new food is anything that was not consumed in the European Union to a significant extent prior to May 1997. There are also nine applications for insects, which are being evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

This growing list brings up many questions related to the supply chain including safety. Hazards can be biological, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites; chemicals including mycotoxins, pesticides, heavy metals, and antimicrobials; or physically. As part of addressing this, FAO has published an overview of food safety issues that could be associated with edible insects. Perhaps in the future we will offer storage and cooking tips and leftover grasshoppers instead of chicken?

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