Tahini from Syria has been linked to a trio of illnesses in New Zealand with recalls continuing across Europe.

The three patients have been infected with Salmonella Kintambo. Patients have previously been reported in the United States, Canada and across Europe as part of a wider outbreak.

In late July in New Zealand, Middle East recalled specific batches of Algota brand Sesame Tahini due to the possible presence of Salmonella.

Recalled tahini in New Zealand

Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety’s deputy director general, said: “We can confirm that we have three reports of associated illness. We are unable to provide information about these cases due to privacy considerations.

“As is usual practice for recalls which have taken place in other countries, we have reached out to food safety officials in Europe and will continue to update them.”

Recalled products were sold in various packaging sizes in a plastic container or bucket at a store in Wellington. They have batch marking 498 or 359.

Global outbreak

Previously, the United States reported six Salmonella Mbandaka cases, one in 2020 and five this past year.

Canada had eight confirmed patients: five of Salmonella Mbandaka, two of Salmonella Havana and one of Salmonella Orion from 2019 to 2021.

In Europe, 121 people had been affected since January 2019 in five countries, with Germany the most affected.

Six different types of Salmonella were behind illnesses in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The most common is Salmonella Havana followed by Salmonella Mbandaka, Salmonella Orion, Salmonella Kintambo, Salmonella Senftenberg, and Salmonella Amsterdam.

Since mid-June 2022, Germany has posted 11 notifications on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) concerning Salmonella in tahini, halva and sesame paste from Syria.

In April, Norway reported two illnesses due to Salmonella Senftenberg and Salmonella Orion in halva products from Syria.

File a complaint online
Meanwhile, New Zealand Food Safety has refreshed an online tool for people to make a food complaint.

Through a series of drop-down menus, people can provide New Zealand Food Safety with information. It includes guidance on what complaints can be made online and which ones should be sent to a local authority, to help ensure alerts on food safety risks are sent to the right contact. Anyone that completes an online form will be contacted by a food compliance officer.

There have been more than 90 recalls so far this year compared to 154 in all of 2021.

“Consumers play an important role in the food safety system — by making a complaint, you are helping to keep your communities safe. If you notice something that isn’t right, we encourage you to let us know so we can get to the bottom of it. Consumers should feel reassured that whatever the reason, if something unusual has happened or been found, even if it seems a one-off, their reporting helps keep food consumption safe for everyone,” said Arbuckle.

“For the most part, businesses achieve good standards of food safety and work with us to remove any unsafe or non-compliant food to prevent it becoming a bigger issue. Of course, there will be some food safety issues which go unreported. Keeping this in mind, we’ve made it easier for people to alert us about potential problems through our new online tool.”

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