INFOSAN Incidents Up in Mid-2023 – In the second quarter of 2023, the number of incidents involving the global food safety network FIAOSAN increased slightly, with 53 alerts between April and June 2023, compared to 47 in the first three months of 2023.
Of the 32 incidents related to biological hazards, a dozen were caused by Salmonella, and six were caused by Listeria. Three were caused by E. coli, two by norovirus, and one was caused by the bacterium Bacillus cereus.
Five incidents were caused by cadmium, one by cyanide, one by methanol, one by patulin, and one by solanine (an alkaloid).
Ten incidents were related to undeclared allergens or additives, and four were related to physical hazards like metal, glass, or wood.
The food categories most frequently affected by incidents were vegetables, fruit and vegetables, meat and meat, and composite foods.
Herbs, spices, and condiments; milk and dairy products; nuts and oilseeds; snacks, desserts, and other foods; sugar and confectionery; alcohol; egg and egg products; fish and other seafood; legumes and pulses; and products for particular nutritional use were also mentioned in alerts.
Slightly more than a third of notices were reported by INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points and Focal Points. Almost 30 percent were communicated through the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and 37 percent via other WHO channels.
Hepatitis A in berries case
INFOSAN was part of several incidents involving frozen berries because of the detection of hepatitis A.
One of these involved illnesses in the United States linked to fruit products from Mexico. INFOSAN requested information on risk management measures and if there was international distribution.
Mexican authorities shared the progress of their investigations, which included work with agencies in the U.S. doing on-the-ground inspections and sample collection. Checks found that no businesses in Mexico were processing the suspected product and sending it to an operator in the U.S. No freezing of products was identified in Mexican facilities. From samples collected, there were no positives for hepatitis A virus. Mexican officials also said there was no epidemiological information on cases in the area where production of berries occurred.
American authorities confirmed 10 cases linked to the implicated products in four states. The strain is identical to the one that caused an outbreak in 2022 linked to fresh organic strawberries from Mexico. The outbreak was recently declared over.
In May, an introductory webinar for Pacific Island countries was held to raise awareness about how INFOSAN operates during food safety emergencies and promote cooperation among authorities in the region. A similar online session was held for different national agencies in Central America.
Workshops in Egypt and Iraq were held with help from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. Another workshop took place on World Food Safety Day with authorities in Jordan.
In July, a meeting with support from the WHO Regional Office for Africa was held in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, to strengthen the national capacities of INFOSAN members. It resulted in a national roadmap for 2024. Workshops also took place with officials in Mali, Namibia, and Liberia.
Simulation exercises provided practical insights when handling complex food safety emergencies. They involved fictitious scenarios of outbreaks related to internationally distributed items.
In recent decades, the significance of agriculture in rural areas has reduced while food imports have increased in Central Asian nations. An event on the rapid exchange of information during incidents took place with representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. FAO and WHO were asked to provide technical support and resources to support these efforts.