A study has assessed the risk of Anisakis from fish in Portugal and people’s knowledge of the parasite.

Researchers gathered information on risk perception and attitudes in the Portuguese population to contamination of fish with Anisakis and their knowledge of methods to prevent infection.

Parasitic nematodes of the genus Anisakis are the causative agent of anisakiosis. Humans are infected through consumption of raw or undercooked fish contaminated with the parasite. Infection can result in both gastrointestinal and allergic symptoms. There are few reports of anisakiosis in Portugal, but evidence of Anisakis allergy exists, indicating that exposure is occurring.

Portugal has one of the highest levels of fish consumption in the world and European hake is among the most popular. There is no tradition of consuming raw or undercooked fish in Portugal, however these products are becoming increasingly popular, and common cooking methods such as grilling do not always reach sufficient temperatures to kill parasite larvae.

There has been an increase in reports of anisakiosis in the past few decades. This is probably because of factors including increased inspection measures for fishery products leading to higher detection rates of contaminated seafood, and improved diagnostic techniques finding more human infections.

Forty-five European hake of mixed age were measured, weighed and the viscera and muscle were examined for Anisakis larvae. A total of 473 Anisakis stage 3 larvae were found.

From 746 survey respondents, most cited “transmission of parasites” as a risk associated with consumption of raw fish. Many people had not heard of Anisakis or prevention methods. Of those who were aware of such methods, the majority cited “cooking thoroughly” and “freezing” as the most important.

Only 7 percent of people have avoided buying or eating fish because of the presence of worms. A total of 35 percent of respondents would be willing to pay between €1 and €2.5 ($1.1 to $2.7) extra for a fish product that was treated to remove Anisakis larvae and allergens.

Other published assessments
Work was done as part of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Fellowship Program (EU-FORA), which provides scientists at food safety organizations across Europe with the opportunity to increase their knowledge and gain experience in food risk assessment.

One project looked at the prevalence of Salmonella in swine carcasses. It was carried out at a slaughterhouse in Italy between October 2018 and October 2021 and 757 pig carcasses were sampled.

Overall, 19 positive samples were found. The type was Salmonella Derby eight times; Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella London three times; Salmonella Give and Salmonella Brandenburg twice and Salmonella Goldcoast once.

Salmonella prevalence was higher in samples that came from farms with a distance greater than 200 kilometers. Possible reasons could be the longer stay of animals in transport vehicles with inadequate hygiene and their close contact. The positivity rate also increased for heavier animals, but to a lesser extent.

Another study assessed antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Campylobacter from Italy over a decade. More than 2,734 Campylobacter jejuni strains isolated from domestic and wild animals and humans, during 2011 to 2021 were analyzed.

The proportion of completely susceptible strains was very similar in isolates from humans and domestic animals, while strains from wild animals had a significantly higher prevalence. Poultry samples showed a high level of resistance to nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin and tetracycline.

Analysis found a better knowledge of the resistance levels of Campylobacter jejuni was necessary, and mandatory monitoring of Campylobacter in different animals was suggested.

Other work evaluated health risks associated with the consumption of botanical preparations of kratom. It is available via online platforms as food supplements. Kratom has been considered a botanical of possible health concern by the FDA and EFSA.

The assessment indicated that consumption has the potential to lead to adverse neurological effects, including addiction and withdrawal syndrome and other manifestations of toxicity, such as liver toxicity.

Actual risk characterization is made difficult by considerable uncertainties, including variability in composition of kratom preparations, insufficient information on dose-response relationships or the effects of long-term use.

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