EU expert network discusses microbial risks

EU expert network discusses microbial risks

by Sue Jones
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Topics involving Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter were discussed at the latest meeting of a European network dedicated to microbial risk assessment.

The Scientific Network on Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA Network) has 25 European Union member states as well as Switzerland and Norway as observer countries. It is coordinated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

An online meeting covered a range of activities including risk ranking of pathogens in different foods, Salmonella in wild boar meat, Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in flour, bacterial pathogens on fresh fruit and vegetables, Campylobacter and E. coli in broiler meat, and Anisakidae in fish.

Norway showed a report on risk ranking in foods. The six highest-ranked pathogens were Toxoplasma gondii, Campylobacter, Echinococcus multilocularis, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella. Fresh produce was among the main food vehicles for 12 of the 20 pathogens that were tracked. Drinking water was associated with eight, and five were linked to raw milk products.

Cheese, produce and meat
France presented a risk ranking method of microbiological hazards in raw milk cheeses. The opinion on raw milk cheeses is set to be published by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES).

Germany revealed the results of a risk assessment on STEC in flour and on reclaimed wastewater. The latter work looked at risks to human health from Salmonella, STEC and Listeria monocytogenes from consuming raw fruits and vegetables irrigated by reclaimed wastewater.

Sweden presented the results of a risk assessment on Salmonella Choleraesuis, which had not been detected in Swedish pigs since the 1970’s. However, in 2020, it was found on a farm in the south of the country and in wild boars in the same area. An assessment found the risk of Salmonella Choleraesuis being present in meat of healthy wild boars when shot was low.

Estonia updated the situation of enteric infections and trends within recent years. Other studies found Campylobacter in Estonian and imported products decreased compared with earlier periods. Over time there was a significant decrease in the prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter in Estonian broiler chicken meat products.

Austrian officials gave a presentation on the comparison of Campylobacter genotypes on three broiler farms after a 5-year period. Results showed a variety of genotypes among these farms and a change within each farm over time.

E. coli, anisakis and raw milk
Switzerland presented results of a study on E. coli sequence type 131. It is suspected that infections may occur because of contaminated food. A total of 200 Swiss chicken samples were bought in retail stores in a region of the country in 2020. After analysis, 25 were found to be positive for the E. coli sequence 131.

Belgium described findings from research on the occurrence of anisakidae in 415 fish samples from 36 different species that identified an overall prevalence of 53 percent in the viscera and 27 percent in the muscles. Routine control of this parasite in the fish industry is done by the candling technique, where fish fillets are placed on a light table to detect and remove the larvae. When applied on 651 samples and compared to the reference standard, the estimated sensitivity of candling was 32 percent.

Dutch officials spoke about the use of time-temperature indicators (TTIs) instead of a printed date mark and a scientific opinion on raw drinking milk, which was requested as part of implementing new national rules for this product in the Netherlands.

The next MRA network meeting is planned for autumn 2022.

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