A global food safety network helped with the investigation of 19 incidents from October to December 2018, bringing the total for the year to 83.

Salmonella was responsible for the most events that the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was part of during the fourth quarter of 2018.

The network was part of 32 food safety events in the previous quarter and 16 from April to June. The 83 food safety incidents in 2018 is one less than the network participated in during 2016 and 2017 combined.

In the latest quarter, a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Concord in Canada, Israel and the United States traced to consumption of tahini products manufactured by a single factory in Israel was reported to the INFOSAN secretariat. Products linked to this outbreak were distributed globally.

Information sharing through INFOSAN helped in the recall of affected products, identification of onward international distribution, and sharing of whole genome sequencing data to identify illnesses in other countries linked to the outbreak.

The network is managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

There were 12 events involving a biological hazard; seven for Salmonella, two for Listeria monocytogenes and one each for E. coli, norovirus and an unspecified hazard.

Five covered a physical hazard; three due to metal and one each because of a Konjac fruit jelly and glass. One involved lead as a chemical hazard and another undeclared milk allergen.

Food categories commonly involved were fish and other seafood, herbs, spices and condiments, meat products, milk and dairy products, sugar and confectionary, vegetable products, cereal-based products, fruit products, nuts and oilseeds, products for special nutritional use and snacks, desserts and other foods.

In November, the INFOSAN secretariat and colleagues from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) organized the fifth regional meeting of INFOSAN members in the Americas, in Guanajuato, Mexico. More than 50 INFOSAN members from 30 countries attended and reviewed the updated regional strategy to strengthen the network in the region. The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) secretariat provided financial support.

The Americas is the only place where regional INFOSAN meetings have been organized annually and is the first to achieve 100 percent membership coverage, meaning there are active INFOSAN emergency contact points in all member states.

In this quarter, two online emergency communication exercises were organized for INFOSAN emergency contact points and national International Health Regulation (IHR) focal points from 15 countries in the South East Asian and Western Pacific regions.

In December, the INFOSAN secretariat and WHO colleagues from the South-East Asia and Western Pacific offices, took part in a meeting of INFOSAN members in Asia in Seoul, Republic Korea. Fifty network members from 18 countries attended.

Outcomes of the two online emergency communication exercises in November were reviewed, as was involvement of members in the Asian region as part of the outbreak of Salmonella Agona linked to internationally distributed Lactalis infant formula.

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