Shiga toxin-producing E. albertii and children overdosing on Vitamin D are among topics on the radar of European authorities, according to a recent report.

Eighteen potential emerging issues were discussed in 2021 and eight were judged to be emerging risks, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA networks contributing to the topic include the Emerging Risks Exchange Network (EREN), the Stakeholder Discussion Group on Emerging Risks, EFSA’s scientific units, scientific panels and the Scientific Committee.

In four of the issues discussed in 2021, a change in consumer trends was identified as a driver. Six were classed as microbiological hazards and four as chemical.

Example emerging risks
One emerging risk was vitamin D in health supplements. French health authorities had been alerted to several cases of severe hypercalcemia and hospitalization, in previously healthy infants who had taken vitamin D in the form of food supplements.

In 2019 and 2020, Poison Control Centers were called for at least 23 overdoses after consumption of a vitamin D-containing supplement for children. In 2020, two serious cases of vitamin D poisoning were reported to ANSES following infants taking supplements bought on the internet. In 2021, another case of extreme hypercalcemia was reported by a pediatric hospital. Countries were advised to check with pediatricians at the national level to see if there was a trend in babies overdosing on vitamin D.

Another topic was Shiga toxin-producing E. albertii. The natural reservoir of E. albertii is unclear but such information is needed to determine transmission dynamics and prevent infections. Countries were asked to collect data on incidence, prevalence in humans and risk exposure pathways to better characterize the hazard.

The potential health risks of coconut oil were also flagged. Experts said further research was needed to strengthen the evidence basis on potential toxicity and countries were told to check national data to see if an increasing trend in food consumption of coconut oil could be confirmed.

Brevetoxins in French shellfish were mentioned. These are marine biotoxins responsible for neurotoxic shellfish poisoning after eating contaminated shellfish. They are not regulated in Europe. Scientists said monitoring of Brevetoxins in European waters was recommended.

Other issues being monitored
EREN includes the 27 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland, and observers from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

In 2021, EREN members discussed 35 signals and potential emerging issues identified by their own horizon-scanning activities.

Areas that were not judged to be emerging risks included the underestimation of human arcobacter infections, the dangers of non-experts fermenting foods at home, potential poisoning from Asian morel mushrooms, and food supplements containing coumarin.

Other issues were the increasing consumption of crocodile meat, more intoxications by the mushroom Chlorophyllum molybdites in Italy, synthetic cannabinoids in food, and human Bocavirus in shellfish.

In New Zealand, the Emerging Risk Identification System (ERIS) has seen 57 issues put into the emerging risk register. Examples include microplastics and nanoplastics in food, Salmonella in finfish, and new limits for chlorate in milk.

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