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EFSA verdict on food of non-animal origin

By Rod Addy , 09-Jan-2013

EFSA's Panel on Biological Hazards delivered the verdict
EFSA's Panel on Biological Hazards delivered the verdict

Germs from food of non-animal origin (FoNAO) were responsible for almost half the number of deaths caused by food-transmitted pathogens, according to European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) analysis.

From 2008-2011 there was also an increase in the number of FoNAO outbreaks, cases, hospitalizations and deaths, compared with decreases in instances from FoAO, it stated.

The EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards revealed this information as part of its Scientific Opinion on the risks posed by pathogens, which it has just published.

According to the panel, the biggest risk is posed by Salmonella from leafy greens eaten raw and bulb and stem vegetables. This was followed by (in order) Salmonella from tomatoes and melons and E. Coli from fresh pods, legumes and grain.

Norovirus, Shigella, Salmonella and Bacillus

Next comes Norovirus and leafy greens eaten raw, Salmonella from sprouted seeds and Shigella from fresh pods, legumes or grain. Bacillus from spices and dry powdered herbs and previously noted pathogens from further food categories appear lower down on the list.

The panel drew on 2007-2011 outbreak data from EU Zoonoses Monitoring to compile the list.

Including the VTEC O104 E. Coli outbreak in Germany in 2011, the evidence pointed to FoNAO germs being responsible for 10% of outbreaks, 26% of cases, 35% of hospitalisations and 46% of deaths.

Skewed figures

However, that outbreak heavily skewed the figures, said the EFSA panel. If it was excluded then FoNAO pathogens were responsible for 10% of outbreaks, 18% of cases and only 8% of hospitalisations and 5% of deaths.

“There is a general tendency for the outbreaks associated with FoNAO to involve more cases and to be less severe (e.g. lower proportion of hospitalisations and deaths) than those associated with food of animal origin (FoAO),” the panel claimed.

The opinion was based on the best available data, but this varied in completeness from country to country, the panel asserted.