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SGS Reports Decline in Foodborne Disease Outbreaks in Germany in 2013

Food-borne illness outbreaks in Germany decreased in 2013, according to data collated by Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR), down to 73 outbreaks, from 84 in 2012. Despite this reduction, food handling, preparation and cooking remain serious issues for consumer health.

Fairfield, NJ, January 14, 2015 --( German authorities define a foodborne disease outbreak as when two or more people contract a disease from the same food. The country’s standardized federal system for recording data on foods implicated in disease outbreaks, BELA, helped identify a specific food product in 33 of the 73 outbreaks.

Food Vehicles Causing Main Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Based on the evidence submitted via BELA, and investigated by the BfR, the same two categories topped the grocery vehicles involved in 2013’s food-borne disease outbreaks as in previous years; meat, meat products and sausages, and ready meals and prepared foods.

Food Pathogens in Meat, Meat Products and Sausages

Of the 7 outbreaks identified, 6 were triggered by the Salmonella pathogen. 2 S. Agona outbreaks were traced back to chicken kebab meat and an outbreak of S. Muenchen related to the consumption of raw minced meat sold through a chain of butcher’s shops. On a wider scale, an S. Derby outbreak was traced to a sausage spread served in hospitals and nursing homes, impacting some of the most vulnerable consumers.

Foodborne Illnesses from Ready Meals and Prepared Foods

Ready meals and prepared food were identified as the source of 6 food-borne disease outbreaks. Poor food handling and preparation resulted in 2 outbreaks caused by Bacillus cereus. An outbreak of S. Typhirium DT 193 was traced to consumption of smoked pork, roasted and with sauerkraut.

Increased Foodborne Diseases from Fishery Products

In a year when most figures have been decreasing, the frequency of outbreaks involving fish and fish products has increased. Smoked mackerel and tuna were the foods principally identified as the source of 6 outbreaks in this category. Research suggests that the contamination was introduced during the smoking process.

Breads, Biscuits and Pastries

S. enteritidis was identified as the cause of all 5 outbreaks in this category. In the evidence supplied to BELA all the dished implicated in this category used raw eggs. In addition to the outbreak’s trigger pathogen, further testing also identified high levels of Bacillus Cereus.

Mayonnaise, Emulsified Sauces, Cold Ready-Made Sauces and Salads

Prepared salads, from delicatessens, were the root cause of three outbreaks, triggered by staphylococcal enterotoxins, rotavirus and norovirus pathogens.

Raw Milk and Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

Campylobacter was again associated with raw milk outbreaks in 2013. These outbreaks prompted the BfR to issue a media statement to the effect that children, pregnant women, the elderly and sick people in particular should refrain from consuming raw milk and raw milk products, even those visiting farms.

Ice Cream and Cream Products

Ice cream contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus resulted in two food-borne disease outbreaks. On investigation of the samples, high concentrations of Staphylococcus aureus and enterotoxin were detected.

Puddings, Desserts and Sweet Sauces

Several diners got sick as a result of a Bacillus cereus outbreak triggered by eating a starchy dessert. Inadequate cooling was determined as a contributing factor. In 2 of 5 isolates tested, a toxin-forming ability for Diarrhoetoxin of Bacillus cereus was detected.

BELA Reporting of Contributing Factors to Foodborne Illness

To help identify the root cause of food-borne disease outbreaks, the BELA reporting system asks those making a submission to nominate, where possible, factors that may have contributed to an outbreak. BELA offers users a predefined list, from which multiple factors can be selected, as well as the opportunity to add free text comments. Despite this, 6 out of the 33 food-borne outbreaks with high evidence did not include any contributory factors. Resulting in outbreaks of Salmonella and rotavirus, poor food handling, either by an infected person or through cross-contamination is the highest risk factor.

BELA also explores factors that may have contributed to the survival or multiplication of pathogens in foods. The majority of these involved temperature management. Insufficient cold storage or uncontrolled cooling was given as a factor in four outbreaks. Insufficient heating of food was named as a major factor in two Salmonella outbreaks, and an outbreak each of Campylobacter jejuni and staphylococcal enterotoxin. In the catering sector, two submissions cited an inadequate HACCP concept.

BELA Reporting Encourages Continuous Improvement and Education

Based on 12 months’ data, Germany’s BELA reporting system offers a detailed snapshot of the issues facing the food industry and its consumers. Poor food handling is the biggest cause of food borne disease outbreaks. Education is key to combating these problems. Stakeholders across the food supply chain must ensure that safety systems and food hygiene training plans ( aim for continuous improvement.

For further information on food safety, please contact the SGS experts.

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 80,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,650 offices and laboratories around the world.
Contact Information
SGS Consumer Testing Services
James Cook
+1 973 461 1493
Food Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager
291 Fairfield Ave, Fairfield
New Jersey 07004, USA

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