Big topics from around the world in 2021: Ethylene oxide, COVID-19 impact, global outbreaks – Food Safety News
– ANALYSIS –
A trio of issues that featured in the news agenda of 2020 carried into 2021 and none of them are out of sight yet. Coronavirus, the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, and ethylene oxide contamination are sure to demand coverage as we head into 2022.
2021 also gave us a glimpse into how pathogens don’t respect borders, Group B Streptococcus in Hong Kong, edible insect developments, and another year of big Salmonella outbreaks in the UK.
1) Impact of COVID-19 measures on foodborne infections
Some research has been done and more is ongoing to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the reporting of foodborne diseases. This was highlighted in full by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report on outbreaks and illnesses in 2020. Regular Food Safety News readers will have guessed the direction of figures from coverage of national statistics, but the reported 47 percent decrease in outbreaks and 61 percent fall in illnesses might have surprised even them.
One interesting point was the agents that caused severe illness such as botulism or listeriosis didn’t go down as much as norovirus, for example, which is unpleasant but rarely fatal.
We know by now that many measures including reduced travel and closed food businesses are factors to consider, but more people were cooking at home so the risk areas changed. We’ll have to wait for the 2021 figures but I suspect with more travel and lab capacity back online they will go up. However, I would be surprised if we went back to the levels seen in 2019 pre-pandemic.
2) A global world: The international outbreaks
For the past three quarters, events involving the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) have gone up. Is this better reporting or more incidents? That depends on who you listen to, but we can agree this year saw some outbreaks involving Europe as well as the United States and Canada.
A multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup affected more than 350 people and was traced to Galia melons from Honduras. Four people were sick in the United States and two in Canada while most cases came from the UK and Europe.
Another example is the outbreak of different Salmonella types linked to tahini and halva from Syria. The United States has reported six Salmonella Mbandaka cases, one in 2020 and the rest this year. Canada has eight confirmed cases: five of Salmonella Mbandaka, two of Salmonella Havana and one of 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 …….