The world’s biggest food poisoning outbreak to date was a few years ago and centred on Germany. It was caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of E.coli.
As the first cases appeared, the food that was in the firing line as the source was Lebanese Cucumbers. This resulted in massive loss of sales of this product across Europe as consumers suddenly lost confidence in the safety of the product. That industry is probably still trying to recover.
After further work by Health Authorities it was found that the actual source was sprouts, which had started out in Egypt.
Around 3000 people were ill and at least 50 died across several countries as a result of this outbreak.
Only a small percentage of food poisoning outbreaks are actually traced back to their source. Most end up with no easily identifiable source and make it hard to work out what actions are required.
Nearly everyone in Australia would have heard about how the berries from overseas contained a virus and caused a lot of people in this country to contract Hepatitis A (HAV).
A big recall happened and it was part of the conversation of many for a while. It has even made the Federal Government get heavily involved in a review of labelling of foods from overseas.
After much testing by the importer and packer of that product, it has been found that there was no Hepatitis A virus in the berries.
Patties Foods MD and CEO, Steven Chaur, said; “Extensive microbiological and viral testing conducted by Patties Foods shows no evidence of systemic failure of Patties Foods’ quality assurance programs. Our microbiological and viral testing does not confirm any link between Nanna’s Mixed Berries and HAV. However, we are guided by the epidemiology provided by the DHHS and accordingly have taken proactive and collaborative measures to ensure public safety. If our Nanna’s product was the source, the lack of laboratory findings from the testing conducted by Patties Foods for the presence of E.coli, Coliforms or HAV indicates there has been no systemic failure. Regardless, Patties Foods has significantly increased protection measures to ensure that any risk is further minimised in future.”
So although berries were a commonly consumed food by the confirmed 28 HAV cases, it is looking like they were not the source.
The importer is now going to have work very hard to get back sales as consumers have long memories. It is doing a lot of work to do so, but the industry will be impacted for some time as unfortunately, the saying “mud sticks” is very true.
So what was the source of this outbreak – the answer is who knows? Investigations will no doubt continue but the likelihood of finding it is probably low.
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.