The number of food safety incidents involving an international network declined based on figures from the most recent quarter.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was part of 18 food safety events covering 50 countries from July to September compared to 29 incidents concerning 66 countries from April to June.

Eleven of 18 alerts were about a biological hazard. Four for Salmonella, three for Listeria monocytogenes and one each for Cyclospora, E. coli, Hepatitis A virus, and norovirus.

Norovirus in seaweed from China
During the third quarter of 2019, the INFOSAN secretariat was notified of several outbreaks of norovirus in European countries epidemiologically linked to eating frozen seaweed salad produced by the same manufacturer in China.

The INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point in China was contacted to see if other countries may have received potentially contaminated seaweed salad and the investigation is ongoing.

The network is run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Five events involved a physical hazard such as metal, plastic and glass, one concerned methanol as a chemical hazard, and the other related to undeclared cashew and walnut allergens.

Methanol poisoning in Costa Rica
In 3Q, the network was made aware of methanol poisoning in Costa Rica linked to the consumption of adulterated, counterfeit alcoholic beverages.

During the investigation, details of the implicated products as they became available were shared on the INFOSAN Community Website. Due to the criminal nature and possibility of implicated products being illegally distributed, other INFOSAN members in the region exchanged information about risk management measures in their respective countries and past experiences responding to similar incidents. No other illnesses associated with the implicated products were reported from other countries.

Food categories most commonly involved were milk and dairy products, herbs, spices and condiments, fish and other seafood, meat and meat products, snacks, desserts, and other foods, vegetables, and vegetable products, alcoholic beverages, fruit and fruit products, and legumes and pulses.

Incidents involved countries from all WHO regions but mostly Europe, followed by the Western Pacific, Africa, the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, and South-East Asia.

The second global meeting of INFOSAN, organized by FAO and WHO, and hosted by the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, is set for Dec. 9 to 11 in the United Arab Emirates.

It will bring together members from more than 100 countries for the first time in nearly a decade.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for members to discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities to strengthen the network and protect the global food supply to help lower the global burden of foodborne diseases.

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