Insights into Bacillus cereus, Cronobacter, Campylobacter, E. coli, and tick-borne encephalitis virus in selected foods in Spain have been published.

Findings come from the latest batch of reports approved by the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition’s (AESAN) Scientific Committee to be published in English.

One document covers biological hazards of interest for food safety in Spain and features Bacillus cereus and Cronobacter in flour, Campylobacter in meats other than poultry, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in beef, raw milk and leafy greens, and tick-borne encephalitis virus due to raw dairy products.

It is an update to a 2018 review of hazards that do not have specific regulations and are not included in official control programs. Scientists reviewed published research, epidemiological data and food prevalence and detection methods.

Cronobacter and Campylobacter work
The importance of Cronobacter and Bacillus cereus can be demonstrated given their survival in powdery matrixes such as flours of different origins, including cereals, although reported outbreaks do not seem to indicate a high prevalence, found the report.

Cronobacter is well studied in powdered infant formula and the related processing environment but other products such as cereals should also be given importance, said experts.

For Campylobacter in meat, given the prevalence found on cattle, sheep, and pig farms, as well as the increase in the number of positive samples in studies, research into these sources was considered important by scientists. While poultry meat has often been identified as being responsible for the infection, there are a high number of illnesses in people which do not come from this product.

In 2019, AESAN collected 1,951 food analysis results and Campylobacter was detected in 512 samples, representing 26.24 percent of positive samples. In 2020, the percentage of positives increased to 44 percent.

E. coli and tick-borne encephalitis findings

In 2020, 74 STEC patients were reported in Spain, and 269 infections in 2019. Data on E. coli in the country shows outbreaks have occurred and make it advisable to control STEC in beef, raw milk, and leafy vegetables, said scientists.

The range of ticks that can transmit tick-borne encephalitis virus, together with the potential consumption of raw milk, make it advisable to investigate it in such products and gather more data. One of the main limitations of molecular techniques is that a positive PCR result does not confirm the infectivity of the detected virus, said scientists.

The report also showed the need to determine the prevalence of multi-resistant bacteria of Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumonia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in food in Spain, especially in ready-to-eat items such as salads and fresh plant-based foods.

Related work has updated chemical hazards of food safety importance in Spain. It covers aluminum, antimony, chromium, anthraquinones, aflatoxins in hazelnuts, melamine, bisphenol A (BPA) analogs, and Aspergillus mycotoxins.

The aim of the review was to provide a starting point for possible studies, as there is a lack of evidence of the danger posed by these hazards and of specific regulations on the content of foods.

Other reports cover setting shelf life dates for frozen meat in retail establishments and the safe use of hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid, and peracetic acid as processing aids for bacterial disinfection of plums, cherries, and pear washing water at processing plants.

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