According to recently released figures, the number of outbreaks and illnesses has risen in Switzerland in 2022 compared to the year before.
A total of 40 outbreaks were reported by Swiss authorities in 2022. Over 780 people fell ill, at least 40 were hospitalized, and one died. Outbreaks had been rare, with only 13 in 2020, but this jumped to 37 in 2021.
Five outbreaks each were because of Salmonella and norovirus. Bacillus cereus was behind two, while Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, Vibrio, and Shigella caused one. The agent was unknown in 23 incidents. Two outbreaks were linked to rice products and one each to oysters, cakes, and mixed products.
A Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak affected 13 people in a day center for children under five. Two people, a child, and an adult, had to be hospitalized. The source of infection was a chocolate mousse prepared with contaminated eggs and served as a dessert.
A few hours after eating in the canteen of a kindergarten, 22 people, including 19 children, fell ill. Sampling results revealed contamination by Bacillus cereus in a rice salad. An investigation found shortcomings in cooling, preservation, and storage, with food stored for several hours at inappropriate temperatures.
With 7,597 laboratory-confirmed cases in 2022, compared with 6,797 in 2021, campylobacteriosis was again the most common. More than 2,000 cases were declared during July and August. As in previous years, a second short-term increase was observed during the holiday season.
Salmonellosis was the second most reported zoonotic disease, as 1,843 lab-confirmed cases were recorded in 2022, up from 1,486 in the previous year. The top serovars remained the same, with Enteritidis first, followed by Typhimurium and the monophasic variant.
Rise in illnesses
In 2022, reported cases increased again compared to 2020 and 2021 and are back to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most common pathogens, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
There was a significant increase in listeriosis, with 78 cases compared to 33 in 2021. This was primarily because of a nationwide outbreak with 20 cases and one death between April and July 2022.
Patient surveys and whole genome sequencing (WGS) identified smoked trout from one company as the source. Listeria was detected in products and the production environment and was identical to patient samples. The Kundelfingerhof company, based in Thurgovie, stopped production to address contamination and was given the all-clear in September 2022.
In total, 1,194 cases of STEC were declared compared to 934 in the previous year. There were 22 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), with children under five and those older than 65 particularly affected.
Forty-nine cases, mostly children under 10, were attributed to a multi-country outbreak of monophasic Salmonella typhimurium associated with Kinder chocolate manufactured by Ferrero in Belgium.
Four Trichinella and six Brucella infections were recorded. One young migrant was infected by Mycobacterium Bovis, probably because of drinking unpasteurized milk.
2022 recall data
Meanwhile, the number of recalls and public warnings dropped in 2022 in Switzerland, according to recent figures.
The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) published nine public warnings and 39 recalls for food compared to 18 public warnings and 61 recalls in 2021. Recalls are conducted by companies and public warnings are made by Swiss authorities.
A dozen public warnings or food recalls concerned contamination by pathogenic microorganisms. They included Salmonella eight times, Listeria on three occasions and Burkholderia cepaci once.
Eight alerts were due to allergens, seven because of foreign bodies, and five each for biological contamination and pesticide residues. Two public warnings for non-compliant composition were due to the presence of unauthorized dyes, Sudan I and IV.
Various product categories were the subject of public warnings or recalls but most often it was “Cereals and cereal-based products” and “Aromatic herbs and spices.”
Of the 4,340 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications, Switzerland was concerned 237 times and notified the system 62 times, which are both down from the year before. It was the country of origin on eight occasions.
Switzerland can be involved when potentially unsafe products have been distributed to the country, when it is the country of origin of the implicated product or when company checks or official controls identify a problem.
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