The number of notifications in a Spanish food alert system has set a new record by passing 1,000 in 2021.

The 1,081 notifications in the Coordinated System for the Rapid Exchange of Information (SCIRI) portal this past year is well up on the 634 in 2020 and 678 in 2019.

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) coordinates national actions related to food products and food contact materials that may pose a risk to public health.

Border rejection notifications increased considerably with 324 compared to 103 in 2020. The top country of origin was Brazil, followed by Morocco and China.

Almost 750 reports were made in Spain, which was up from 523 in 2020. In 2021, more than 100 alerts concerned fish products, followed by meat and cereals and flour-based products.

Most notifications related to live bivalve mollusks did not require immediate action by authorities because the products were no longer thought to be on the market.

Examples of incidents
Chemical hazards were linked to 475 notices followed by biological hazards with 147.

Salmonella was the top biological hazard with 61 mentions, followed by E. coli with 27 and Listeria with 20.

Seventeen alerts included sick people including five mentions of Salmonella. Salmonella Typhimurium in France in fuet from Spain affected 42 people. Two incidents of Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs had 55 patients. Norovirus in bivalve mollusks from Galicia sickened 36 people. There were three other norovirus incidents, two incidents because of histamine and one because of Listeria.

Chemical hazards include additives, phytosanitary products, veterinary drugs, heavy metals, mycotoxins and food contact material migration. Phytosanitary reasons accounted for almost half of reports with 225 cases. Most were because of residues in produce either exceeding the limit or use of unauthorized substances.

Notifications for heavy metals included the presence of cadmium, mercury, arsenic, nickel, aluminum and lead. Mercury in swordfish stood out. The 28 mycotoxin reports included 16 for aflatoxins, 11 for ochratoxin A and one for fumonisin.

Ethylene oxide and allergens
In 2021, there were 39 notifications because of physical hazards such as plastic, metal and a tooth in one case.

In more than 500 cases, the origin of a product involved in a report came from another EU country while other nations were involved in 221 alerts, mainly India and China.

The high place of India is due to 47 of 55 reports relating to contamination with ethylene oxide.

Almost 200 reports because of ethylene oxide were managed in SCIRI. Many of these were in cereal-based products, nuts, additives and spices.

In September 2020, Belgium detected elevated levels of ethylene oxide in three batches of sesame seeds originating in India and imported by the Netherlands. In June 2021, France reported contamination in locust bean gum, which is used as a stabilizer in ice cream.

A total of 58 alerts related to labeling issues and detection of different undeclared allergens and intolerances. Milk was in first place, ahead of gluten and sulfites in second, followed by soy and mustard.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)