The number of food poisoning outbreaks decreased in 2006

17.10.2007

<div>A total of 46 food- or waterborne outbreaks, affecting about 1800 people, were recorded in the Finnish national food poisoning register in 2006. There were 16 % less outbreaks than in the year before. Most of the outbreaks (91%) were transmitted via food. Domestic water caused four (9%) outbreaks. The most common cause of the food poisonings was the norovirus. </div>

Fresh vegetables and products made from these were the food group most reported to have caused outbreaks.  Vegetables surpassed meat and meat products for the first time as the most significant cause of food poisoning outbreaks. In 2006 the two largest outbreaks were also caused by vegetables. Fresh vegetables contaminated by the norovirus led to over 400 people falling ill due to the salads delivered by one food processor. Finnish carrots that had been stored over winter caused two Yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreaks. In the larger Y. pseudotuberculosis outbreak 400 students and teachers fell ill as a result of eating a school meal at the end of August. Salmonella caused one outbreak and 16 people fell ill. The rare bacterium Clostridium botulinum caused illness in two people as a result of eating contaminated hot smoked fish. 

An infected kitchen employee taking part in food preparation and having insufficient hand hygiene caused five (11 %) food-borne outbreaks. This was the most important cause of the norovirus outbreaks especially, where an employee or person that transferred the virus caused nearly half of the outbreaks. Deficiencies in kitchen hygiene were also reported in about half of the food-borne outbreaks. Of the reported deficiencies and errors, 30 % were related to temperatures and they had a significant effect on the occurrence of 11 outbreaks. The use of contaminated raw material was clearly connected with the occurrence of five (11 %) outbreaks.

The data is found in the Finnish Food Safety Authority's recent publication No. 21/2007, Food poisonings in Finland in 2006. The publication has been produced by the Food Safety Authority Evira in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute, with Niskanen T., Johansson T., Siitonen A. and Kuusi M. as authors. The publication can be ordered at the address http://www.evira.fi/portal/fi/evira/julkaisut/ (in Finnish)

For additional information, please contact:
Food borne outbreaks:
Senior Officer Taina Niskanen, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, tel. 020 77 24318
Microbiologist Tuula Johansson, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, tel. 020 77 24472
Research Professor Anja Siitonen, National Public Health Institute, tel. (09) 4744 8245
Epidemiologist Markku Kuusi, National Public Health Institute, tel. (09) 4744 8935

Outbreaks transmitted via domestic water: Researcher Ilkka Miettinen, National Public Health Institute, tel. (017) 201 371, 040 5725600.

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