France reported a record high number of foodborne outbreaks in 2022, according to recently released data.

Notified outbreaks were at their highest since the start of surveillance in 1987 and continued the upward trend observed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, 1,924 outbreaks were declared, affecting 16,763 people, of whom 643 went to hospital, and 17 died, said Santé publique France.

For 376 outbreaks, a pathogen could be confirmed in the food or in at least one sick person. A pathogen was suspected without microbiological confirmation for 1,260 outbreaks. For 288 outbreaks, no infectious agent was identified or suspected.

Confirmed incidents
As in previous years, the most frequently confirmed pathogen was Salmonella with 158 outbreaks. Sixty two were Salmonella Enteritidis, 15 were Salmonella Typhimurium and five were monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium. For 66 outbreaks, the serotype was not known. Other serotypes included Virchow, Ajiobo, Derby, Dublin, Litchfield, Mikawasima, Napoli, Stanley, and Venaziana.

Confirmed Salmonella outbreaks were responsible for 975 illnesses and 165 hospitalizations. For 39 percent of these outbreaks, consumption of eggs or egg products was suspected as the source of infection.

Bacillus cereus caused 57 outbreaks with 1,486 illnesses, Staphylococcus aureus caused 24 with 508 cases and Clostridium perfringens caused 20 outbreaks with 487 patients.

Campylobacter caused 60 confirmed outbreaks with 321 cases and eight outbreaks were due to histamine with 49 patients. Nine outbreaks were because of E. coli and seven Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Shigella, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Trichinella all caused three outbreaks while Clostridium botulinum was responsible for two outbreaks.

Outbreaks with suspected pathogens
The most common suspected pathogens were Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Clostridium perfringens. They were mainly associated with consumption of mixed food or cooked meals. For these three pathogens, the number of patients was 7,062 and 129 hospitalizations.

Salmonella caused 74 outbreaks with 369 cases and histamine caused 49 outbreaks with 292 cases. E. coli was linked to 11 outbreaks and STEC to 17. Ciguatera was behind 10 outbreaks, three were because of mushrooms and one each to Listeria and Dinophysis, which causes Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning.  

Consumption of shellfish was the cause of 39 percent of confirmed or suspected viral outbreaks. A winter increase in outbreaks caused by enteric viruses, mainly norovirus, is seen annually.

Between 2021 and 2022, the share of outbreaks following family meals decreased, while outbreaks following eating out at restaurants increased. Salmonella is the pathogen most often confirmed or suspected during family meals. Outbreaks linked to caterers, school canteens or company restaurants, were mainly due to Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus.

For a third of confirmed or suspected outbreaks, suspected foods were multiple or composed of various ingredients such as mixed salads or sandwiches. Other sources included meat, fish, poultry and dairy products.

One or more corrective measures were put in place by authorities in almost 600 outbreaks occurring in commercial settings. A dozen product withdrawals or recalls were carried out after outbreaks.

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