The number of incidents involving a global food safety network dropped slightly in the third quarter of 2023.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was part of 46 alerts from July to September 2023, down from 53 in the second and 47 in the first quarters.

Of 32 biological hazard incidents, a dozen were because of Salmonella, and ten were because of Listeria monocytogenes. Three were caused by Clostridium botulinum; Bacillus cereus and Shigella were listed twice, while E. coli, Norovirus, and Staphylococcus aureus all caused one.

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

Hot chip challenge
Two chemical hazards involved capsaicin and chlorpyrifos. Eight mentioned an undeclared allergen or ingredient, and four were from a physical hazard such as plastic, metal, or stones.

The capsaicin alert was because of the Paqui “one chip” social media challenge. The chip contains capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers. The challenge involves eating the spicy chip and waiting as long as possible before consuming something else.

Paqui, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company, announced the removal of the product from shelves in September 2023 following the death of teenager Harris Wolobah. The cause of Wolobah’s death remains under investigation but was linked to the challenge. A notice on the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) lists more than 20 affected countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Food categories commonly named in incidents during the third quarter of 2023 were composite food, meat and meat products, and vegetables and vegetables.

Fish and other seafood; fruit and fruit products; snacks, desserts, and other foods; herbs, spices, and condiments; milk and dairy products; nuts and oil seeds; eggs and egg products; cereals and cereal-based products; non-alcoholic drinks; and sugar and confectionery were also mentioned in alerts.

Overall, 41 percent of incidents were reported to INFOSAN by network members, 35 percent were communicated via RASFF, and 24 percent through various other WHO channels.

Meeting highlights
INFOSAN highlighted the foodborne botulism outbreak that affected 16 people in Bordeaux in September 2023. Sick people came from Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

All patients ate the same product, homemade preserved sardines in jars, at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar restaurant in Bordeaux. Sardine samples from five jars tested positive for type B Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) and type B Clostridium botulinum. 

INFOSAN, WHO, FAO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) organized a virtual regional meeting in November.

The event gathered INFOSAN members from member states in the Americas, including Emergency Contact Points (ECPs) and the National Focal Points for the International Health Regulations. The focus was on implementing the regional strategy to strengthen INFOSAN in the Americas and aimed to enhance national abilities to manage food safety emergencies effectively.

FAO, WHO, and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Korea held a hybrid meeting in December.

The event included INFOSAN members from the WHO regions of South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. The aim was to facilitate information exchange, share experiences, and develop INFOSAN national action plans to enhance food safety emergency response in the region.

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