A global food safety network investigated 21 incidents between January and March this year.

Most events the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) dealt with in the first quarter of 2019 involved a biological hazard. Five were because of Salmonella, three each because of Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli, and one each involving Clostridium botulinum and Ciguatera toxin.

INFOSAN, which is managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), also handled a physical hazard such as glass in three cases, and one each for metal and plastic. Another incident involved a chemical hazard (Hydrocyanic Acid), and another was about undeclared peanut ingredients.

The 21 incidents in 1Q this year are similar to the 19 recorded for October to December 2018.

All WHO regions were covered including Europe, the Americas, Western Pacific, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia.

Food categories mostly involved, in order, were milk and dairy products, nuts and oilseeds, cereals and cereal-based products, fish and other seafood, fruit and fruit products, sugar and confectioneries, vegetables and vegetable products, food for infants and small children, products for special nutritional use, snacks, desserts, and other foods and starchy roots and tubers.

Role in managing Salmonella Poona outbreak
Officials reported that during the quarter, a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections in France, Belgium and Luxembourg was linked to consumption of infant formula products manufactured for at one factory in Spain. Products linked to the outbreak were distributed globally.

The implicated powdered milk formula was made at the Industrias Lacteas Asturianas SA (ILAS) factory in Anleo, a municipality in the Spanish province of Asturias.

The factory was the same as the one in a 2010 and 2011 incident. Salmonella Poona strains in the two outbreaks were genetically related. The 2010-11 outbreak linked to powdered milk sickened almost 300 infants in Spain.

In February, Peter K. Ben Embarek, INFOSAN management, department of food safety and zoonoses at WHO, spoke to Food Safety News about INFOSAN’s involvement.

The INFOSAN Secretariat worked with INFOSAN emergency contact points in Spain and France to identify and share distribution details with network members in recipient countries. The secretariat also worked with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) during the outbreak.

Information sharing through INFOSAN helped with a recall of affected infant formula products and with identification of secondary international distribution. No cases of illness were reported to the INFOSAN Secretariat in countries outside of Europe.

INFOSAN also exhibited during the first International Food Safety Conference, organized by the FAO, the WHO and the African Union in February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The second part of the event, the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade, is set for April 23 and 24 in Geneva, Switzerland, at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In January, a study began to look at experiences of INFOSAN members and better understand the network’s role in mitigating the burden of foodborne illness worldwide.

It will examine access to and usage of the INFOSAN community website, explore barriers and facilitators to active participation in the network, determine perceptions about the utility of INFOSAN to mitigate foodborne illness, and scrutinize if and how participation creates value for members.

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