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A Snapshot of Global Food Surveillance Activities

A Snapshot of Global Food Surveillance Activities

Surveillance and monitoring programs gather a range of data and information on food safety issues which is commonly used by food regulatory agencies. To keep informed of the emerging issues abroad, FSANZ monitors results of global food surveillance programs and their publications. This assists in the early identification of potential hazards in food which may present a risk to public health and safety in Australia. A summary of a number of recent surveillance activities and published reports by international food regulatory agencies are listed below.

United Kingdom

The Northern Ireland Strategic Committee on Food Surveillance recently published a report of the 2008 sampling activity in Northern Ireland. The data collected in this study informs the Food Surveillance System, United Kingdom (FSS UK) database. The study sampled a total of 9314 foods to assess compliance with food microbiological; compositional; and labelling standards. Key findings of the microbiological sampling indicated that 29% of samples (n=6236) failed to meet the required microbiological standards, though not to levels that would be harmful to health. Meat and meat products were the most common food type sampled for microbiological analysis, where 7% of the meat and meat product samples had high bacteria counts suggesting products were subjected to temperature abuse such as poor temperature control through the distribution chain.

A total of 3078 foods were sampled and tested for chemical composition and labelling. Of these, 50% of food samples failed to comply with compositional and labelling legislative standards, this included a number of minor labelling errors which are reported as ‘failures’. Meat and meat products, bakery products and cereals, and prepared dishes formed a significant proportion of foods sampled for chemical composition and labelling and represented the majority of sample failures. Labelling errors included unsatisfactory ingredient lists, improper naming or description of products and quantative ingredient declaration regulations. These results were consistent with sampling results from 2007.

Several recommendations to improve food safety compliance were made, including: further investigation to better define why specific food types fail microbiological tests; identification of seasonal trends in microbiological levels; and enhancing food sample coding to facilitate a more detailed evaluation of food sample results. Further information can be found at: or in the full report at


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a summary of acrylamide levels in various foods sampled in 2008. The report is the second in a series of three EFSA reports (covering 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively) aiming to identify whether voluntary measures of the food industry have successfully reduced acrylamide levels in foods. O ver 3400 results were reported by 22 European Union Member States and Norway . Foods sampled included: french fries; potato crisps; potato products for home cooking; bread; breakfast cereals; biscuits; roasted coffee; baby food (packaged in jars); and processed cereal-based baby foods. Overall, levels of acrylamide were lower in 2008 than 2007, with the exception of potato crisps, instant coffee and substitute coffee, which had higher levels of acrylamide ( ) . FSANZ is planning to collect data on acrylamide levels in Australian foods as part of the 24th ATDS.

EFSA has also recently collected analytical data to update the monitoring of levels of furan found in food. Seventeen member states and Norway submitted analytical data for a total of 4186 food samples, collected and tested from 2004-2009. The results indicate that furan occurs in a variety of heat-treated foods, including coffee, canned products, and baby food (packaged in jars) . Coffee categories showed the highest furan content in comparison to the other food groups with a maximum value, 6,900 µg/kg, in roasted ground coffee. The mean values in non-coffee food categories ranged between 3.2 µg/kg in infant formula to 40 µg/kg in ‘baby food’ categories. The highest maximum concentrations for the non-coffee categories were found in ‘baby food’ and ‘soups’ at 224 µg/kg and 225 µg/kg respectively. For further information see

EFSA’s Data Collection and Exposure unit ( DATEX) has produced a report on the levels of non dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in food and animal feed. The report is based on results from 11214 food samples and 1349 feed samples collected from 18 European Union Member States, Iceland and Norway between 1999 and 2008. T he highest contamination levels were found in several fish and fish product samples followed by animal products (raw milk, dairy products, eggs and egg products). The lowest levels were found in fruit and vegetables. Similarly, the highest levels of contamination were reported in animal feed containing fish derived products, such as fish oil. For further information see

Global Perspective on Food-borne Related Illnesses: Recent Outbreaks and Investigations of Salmonella Strains

FSANZ also regularly monitors global food safety and regulatory information, informing interested stakeholders through the Monitoring of Emerging Issues newsletter. Monitoring food safety issues globally enables FSANZ to identify potential trends in food safety and food borne outbreaks. Several countries have recently experienced outbreaks of food borne illness from various strains of Salmonella. A snapshot of the several unrelated outbreaks in the United States of America (USA) and France is provided below.

Since March 2010, several multistate outbreaks of different Salmonellas trains in a variety of foods, have occurred in the USA. Between April and June 2010, 37 individuals across 18 states experienced Salmonella Chester infections linked to the consumption of a frozen (entrée) meal product ( ).

From March to June, 44 consumers across 11 states in the USA were infected with Salmonella Newport. During investigation of the outbreak, interviews with case-patients revealed that the majority had consumed raw alfalfa sprouts at restaurants, or had purchased raw alfalfa sprouts at retail stores. Through trace-back analysis, the affected products were linked to a single sprout processor, who voluntarily recalled the affected alfalfa sprouts ( ).

Also in June 2010, outbreaks of two rare types of Salmonella strains, Hartford and Baildon occurred. As of early August, a total of 75 individuals across 15 states in the USA were infected withSalmonellaHartford, and 80 individuals across 15 states have been infected with Salmonella Baildon. Extensive investigations by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and t he food safety regulatory agencies, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) associated both outbreaks with consumption of Mexican style fast food. The number of confirmed cases in both outbreaks peaked in June and neither outbreak appears to be ongoing, indicating no continued risk of infection from this source. ( ).

France recently experienced an outbreak of infection with Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serotype 4,12:i:- (pronounced ‘four twelve eye minus’). The French Institute of Public Health Surveillance (InVS) was alerted to the outbreak by the National Reference Centre for Salmonella when a cluster of six cases of Salmonella 4,12:i:-, was identified in the area of Limoges, France. Investigations had identified 110 cases by early June, as well as highlighting a nationwide increase of this specific serotype in comparison to 2009 and 2008. Surveillance data indicates that prevalence of this serotype in food-borne infections has greatly increased over the past decade. Epidemiological investigations linked the outbreak strain to a dried pork sausage product. The French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA) had also indicated that this variant had been identified in a variety of food-stuffs, but more frequently in pork delicatessen.


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