PITTSBURGH, PA —  In an IAFP 2022 session on Aug. 2, Dr. Ewen Todd, Ewen Todd Consulting, LLC, provided an overview of several international outbreaks.

Todd started with a chocolate outbreak in European countries in February 2022. 

As various countries came forward with Salmonella cases connected to the outbreak there grew a multi-country collaboration that helped identify the specific brand of chocolate products connected to the illnesses.

The Salmonella was found to have come from buttermilk tanks in one of the company’s facilities.

The Salmonella was confirmed to be resistant to antibiotics, such as penicillins, streptomycin, spectinomycin, kanamycin, gentamicin, phenicols, sulfonamides, trimethoprim and tetracyclines.

According to Todd, this was one of the largest chocolate product recalls in European commercial history.

The survival and long shelf-life of Salmonella can make contamination in chocolate difficult to detect in product sampling. Todd said that the high-fat content may have a protective effect for the bacteria, including against gastric acid. It also may alter the functional dose of Salmonella, resulting in more severe disease from exposure. 

Todd explained that early notification and detection resulted in a swift outbreak investigation.

Botulism in China
Next, Todd summarized recent foodborne Botulism outbreaks in China.

During 2004-2022, 80 foodborne botulism outbreaks occurred in China, involving 386 illnesses and 55 deaths.

It was found that local farmers often prepared traditional foods using unsafe production processes. To address this, Todd recommends targeted continuous education to inform farmers and herdsmen of the potential risks of botulism from ingesting homemade traditional native foods. Also, preventive messages should focus on not using unsanitary and traditional food processing, and changing the eating habits of eating raw or half-raw meat.

E.coli in Japan
Lastly, Todd looked at an E.coli O157 Japanese outbreak from skewered meat.

At company “X” (Todd redacted the name of the company), the skewered meat was grilled to 95 degrees C and then removed from the grilling area to meat trays. One possible source of the E. coli was the contamination of the skewered meat from an infected employee.

In conclusion, Todd said that in this selection of outbreaks, the contamination source was improper processing and preparation procedures and storage issues and that these problems are similar to previous outbreak investigations.

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