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Nordic countries pinpoint vegetables as likely driver in foodborne illness outbreak rise

By Joe Whitworth , 22-Oct-2012

Vegetables and vegetable products have been voted as the most likely driver of an increase in foodborne illness outbreaks, according to a Nordic survey.

A group of food safety experts were identified from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and asked about their perceptions for foodborne outbreaks over the next decade.

The likely cause of a foodborne outbreak was vegetables and vegetable products, followed by herbs, spices and condiments, fish and other seafood, meat and meat products and fruit and fruit products.

Alcoholic beverages and sugar and confectionery were voted as unlikely sources for foodborne outbreaks.

Swedish respondents more often selected herbs and spices as likely vehicles of foodborne transmission, perhaps due to recent experience of the severe EHEC outbreak in Germany and France, said the study.  

Finnish respondents selected fish as a likely vehicle, perhaps due a larger share of imported fish products, added the authors.

Critical point in the chain

Imports were identified as the most likely critical points of agent proliferation generating an increase in outbreaks, closely followed by food service with food transport the most unlikely point.

Increased import of foreign food and consumption of raw food scored highly as the likely drivers of foodborne outbreaks.

The survery looked at addressing the issue of potential changes in future outbreaks of human foodborne and waterborne diseases relating to 2011-2020, compared with the previous decade. 

61 respondents voted that it was unlikely that the number of outbreaks will decrease by at least 10%.

Almost 50% thought that it was likely that there would be increasing exposure to known foodborne disease agents, while the emergence of new foodborne disease agents, or new variants of known agents was cited as a concern.

Survey participation

The survey involved Livsmedelsverket (National Food Agency), Sweden, Mattilsynet (Norwegian Food Safety Authority), Evira (Finnish Food Safety Authority) and DTU Fødevareinstituttet (National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

It was conducted online from December 2011 to May 2012 with 110 respondents.

The 19 questions covered beliefs about outbreak trends, characteristics of a potential positive trend, the drivers of such a potentially increasing number of outbreaks, and background questions on nationality, education and professional experience of risk management, assessment and communication.

See the survey HERE

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