Food Borne Viruses now the 2nd biggest cause of food borne outbreaks

The EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority) have published an opinion that after Salmonella Food Borne Viruses are now the most important causes of Food Borne outbreaks within the European Union.

Since 2007 Food Borne Viruses Outbreaks have been growing within the EU.

Food Borne viruses are caused mainly by two types of virus; norovirus (officially known as Norwalk-like viruses (NLV) or small round structures viruses (SRSVc)) which causes gastroenteritis and Hepatitis A  and E viruses which causes hepatitis.

Gastroenteritis causes an inflammation of the stomach and intestines and is the most common cause of infectious human gastroenteritis in the EU.

Hepatitis A and E viruses usually cause flu-like symptoms but can also lead to an acute disease of the liver.

All food borne viruses originate from the human or animal intestine and contamination of food occurs either by contamination from an infected food handler during preparation or by contact with sewage, sewage sludge or polluted water. Control measures mainly depend on staff education and good factory and kitchen hygiene.

The use of clean water for irrigation of crops that are likely to be eaten raw and cultivation of molluscan shellfish in sewage-free seawater are also essential to prevent viral contamination of food.

The EFSA stated that “the effective measures to control the spread of these viruses should focus on preventing contamination at all levels of production rather than on trying to remove or inactivate these viruses from contaminated food.”

Currently thorough cooking is the only efficient measure to remove or inactivate norovirus or hepatitis A virus from contaminated bivalve molluscs or fresh produce.

Control measures could include increase medical screening and training on food handlers. The EFSA have also recommended further data collection on these viruses and implementing microbiological criteria for norovirus.

The results of the published EFSA opinion will probably take a few months to filter through the various channels but over the next few months to the year there will probably now be more emphasis on Food Handlers being correctly training and effectively screened medically.

Source: The EFSA

About ABurne

Andy Burne has worked in Technical Management for many years in the food industry. Now he is a certified BRC auditor and provides consultancy to the Food Industry.