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INFOSAN Quarterly Summary, 2020 #1

BULLETPROOF MOTIVATION

Food safety incidents

During the first quarter of 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was involved in 38 food safety incidents involving 109 WHO Member States and 9 territories of WHO Member States. There were 25 incidents involving a biological hazard (Salmonella spp. [8], Listeria monocytogenes [5], Norovirus [3] Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli [2], Clostridium botulinum [2] Bacillus cereus [2], Cronobacter spp. [1], Shigella sonnei [1], unspecified biological hazard [1]), 6 involving an undeclared allergen (milk [3], peanut (1), egg [1], gluten [1]), 5 involving a physical hazard (undetermined foreign matter [2], glass [1], metal [1], plastic [1]), one involving a chemical/toxin hazard (histamine), and one linked to an unspecified hazard.

The food categories that were most commonly involved in the 38 incidents during the first quarter of 2020 involved fish and other seafood (8), herbs and spices (4), legumes and pulses (4), milk and dairy products (3), nuts and oilseeds (3), snacks, desserts and other foods (3), cereals and cereal-based products (2), composite food (2), fruit and fruit products (2), meat and meat products (2), vegetables and vegetable products (2), products of special nutritional use (1), and food for infants and small children (1). One incident involved an unknown food source.

During such international food safety incidents, the INFOSAN Secretariat relies on the swift action of national INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points to respond to requests for information. Rapid sharing of information through INFOSAN enables members to implement appropriate risk management measures to prevent illness in their respective countries.

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Geographic scope

The outlined incidents involved Member States from all WHO regions: Europe (39), followed by the Americas (24), Africa (24), the Western Pacific (18), the Eastern Mediterranean (8) and South-East Asia (6).

Recall in several countries of frozen spring roll sheets from Singapore due to the presence of an undeclared allergen

In February 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was notified by the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and INFOSAN colleagues in Australia of a recall in Australia and several European countries of frozen spring roll sheets due to the detection of an undeclared allergen (milk), imported from Singapore. In collaboration with RASFF, the INFOSAN Secretariat was informed that the implicated frozen spring roll sheets were distributed internationally to 46 Member States from four WHO regions and 4 territories in Europe and the Western Pacific. Moreover, through engagement with the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point (ECP) in Singapore, the INFOSAN Secretariat also received details of further distribution of implicated products to additional WHO Member States from all WHO regions, taking the total number of Member States involved to 65. It was also reported that the products involved had been redistributed by some countries to Europe, the Americas and Africa. Consequently, several countries recalled the implicated products to relabel them and investigated the issue to identify illnesses related to the consumption of the implicated frozen spring roll sheets. No illnesses were reported to the INFOSAN Secretariat.

This incident has highlighted undeclared allergens as an important category of hazards that can result in a largescale international response to implement risk management measures and prevent illness. In addition, it exemplified efficient communication among INFOSAN members and the Secretariat.

Outbreak of Listeriosis in the United States of America linked to enoki mushrooms imported from the Republic of Korea

In March 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was made aware by the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of an outbreak of Listeriosis in the US linked to the consumption of enoki mushrooms, imported from the Republic of Korea. In total, 36 cases including 4 deaths have been reported in the US. Following investigations in Canada, carried out in collaboration with the US, the INFOSAN Secretariat was informed of 6 cases of Listeriosis between 2017 and 2019 in Canada potentially related by whole genome sequencing (WGS) to the ongoing outbreak in the USA. In addition, food isolates (from enoki mushrooms from the Republic of Korea) genetically associated with the cluster of cases have been collected in 2019 by authorities in Canada. The WGS information pertaining to the cases and food isolates were shared on the INFOSAN Community Website to assist the identification of cases in other countries.

The Power of Self-Discipline

The INFOSAN Secretariat engaged the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point (ECP) in the Republic of Korea to seek details on any further international distribution of the implicated enoki mushrooms. Investigations are ongoing. 

News & activities

Food Sector and the COVID-19 outbreak

On 31 December 2019, WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The virus, a previously unknown coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2 and is the cause of the COVID-19 disease.

The WHO Epidemic Information Network (EPI-WIN) aims to share information tailored to specific sectors, including food and agriculture. The INFOSAN Secretariat has recently developed a guidance document for food businesses with regards to COVID-19 and food safety which is now available online. The guidance has also been disseminated through EPI-WIN and presented during two webinars.

Call for applicants: INFOSAN Train-the-Trainer Workshop

In February, the INFOSAN Secretariat issued a call for applications for the INFOSAN Train-the-Trainer workshop. With the constant growth of the network, and the increased need for training that this entails, the INFOSAN Secretariat, in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), has announced this workshop which aims to increase the human resources available to train INFOSAN members on a range of INFOSAN-related topics, online or in-person. As a result, it is expected that the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of INFOSAN members will be improved, resulting in greater participation that will enhance speed and efficiency during the response to food safety emergencies at the global level. The INFOSAN Secretariat, together with CFIA, look forward to hosting this important workshop later this year.

Developing the new INFOSAN Community Website

The INFOSAN Community Website (ICW) continues to be an effective tool for the network to disseminate information during food safety emergencies. Over the past year, through the INFOSAN member survey, the Secretariat has gained a better understanding of how members use the ICW and how it can be improved to enhance information sharing. The information collected, together with the experience of members of the Secretariat, has provided numerous innovative ideas to guide the development of the new ICW. The Secretariat is pleased to announce that the competitive process to select the vendor that will develop the new INFOSAN Community Website has concluded and the work on the creation of the new ICW has begun. 

Voice of an active network member

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https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-infosan-quarterly-summary-2020-1

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