The number of food safety incidents involving a global network declined in the final quarter of 2022 according to a new report.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was part of 47 alerts from October through December compared to 58 in the third quarter of 2022.

In the whole year, the network was involved in 198 incidents. This is down from 248 events in 2021 but up compared to 127 in 2020 and 84 in 2019.

Thirty incidents in the fourth quarter of 2022 involved a biological hazard with Salmonella behind a dozen cases.

Listeria monocytogenes were mentioned in six events, Clostridium botulinum in three and E. coli and Yersinia enterocolitica in two. Hepatitis A, Cronobacter, Norovirus, Shigella, and Staphylococcus were all responsible for one incident.

Information on hazard type
Seven featured a chemical hazard such as lead, methyl alcohol, histamine, or thebaine. Thebaine is a natural chemical in poppy seeds that can be toxic in high concentrations. It was linked to at least 40 illnesses in Australia in people who drank poppy seed tea.

Five were caused by physical hazards like glass, metal, and plastic, and only three were due to an undeclared allergen or ingredient.

INFOSAN is managed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Food categories most commonly involved were meat and meat products; vegetables and vegetable products; composite food; food for infants and small children; and milk and dairy products.

Snacks, desserts, and other foods; fish and other seafood; alcoholic beverages; fruit and fruit products; herbs, spices, and condiments; non-alcoholic drinks; and nuts and oilseeds also caused a few incidents.

Overall, 60 percent of incidents were reported to INFOSAN by network members, 15 percent through the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), and 25 percent via various WHO channels.

INFOSAN involved in Salmonella outbreak
A major outbreak of Salmonella with almost 200 cases linked to ready-to-eat chicken products was highlighted.

The Salmonella Mbandaka outbreak has sickened 196 people in nine countries. Nineteen people have been hospitalized, five had septicemia and one person died in the United Kingdom. Finland has the most infections with 89 followed by the UK with 81.

 In late December 2022, a meeting was organized involving INFOSAN colleagues in the UK and Israel and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) officials. The meeting exchanged information on the outbreak situation and food chain investigations in the concerned countries.

Epidemiological data and microbiological evidence from whole genome sequencing of human isolates indicate there could be several active sources through different food distribution chains, with a common source higher up in the chicken supply chain.

Regional INFOSAN events were also held in Asia Pacific and the Americas.

In December in Asia, INFOSAN members from 10 countries received updates about activities to develop the network in the region during 2022; shared their feedback on obstacles and barriers to active participation in the network, and discussed methods to strengthen food safety emergency response in their country and at the regional level.

In November, INFOSAN members from the Americas met in Brazil. The event was held alongside the annual meeting of the PulseNet Latin America and the Caribbean Network, a group for regional surveillance of foodborne diseases through molecular subtyping.

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