2022 year in review
Another year is ending, and food safety still seems to have many challenges. We are back to a pre-pandemic year in food safety. The US encountered several outbreaks of the major pathogens.
The most significant outbreaks of the year were:
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Enoki Mushrooms. November 2022: 2 illnesses, 2 hospitalizations in 2 states.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Deli Meat and Cheese. November 2022: 16 illnesses, 13 hospitalizations, and 1 death in 6 states.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Brie and Camembert Cheese. December 2022: 6 illnesses, 5 hospitalizations, 6 states.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Ice Cream. November 2022: 28 illnesses, 27 hospitalizations, 1 death, 11 states.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Packaged Salads Produced by Fresh Express. March 2022: 10 illnesses, 10 hospitalizations, 1 death, 8 States.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Packaged Salads Produced by Dole. April 2022: 18 illnesses, 16 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 13 states.
Salmonella Litchfield Outbreak Linked to Fish. December 2022: 39 illnesses, 15 hospitalizations, 4 Sates
Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons. November 2022: 23 illnesses, 8 hospitalizations, 15 States.
Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Small Turtles. November 2022: 28 illnesses, 10 hospitalizations, 16 Sates
Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Backyard Poultry. November 2022: illnesses 1,230, hospitalization 225, deaths 2, 49 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Salmonella Senftenberg Outbreak Linked to Peanut Butter. July 2022: illnesses, hospitalizations 4, states 17.
Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons. June 2022: 56 illnesses,19 hospitalizations, 26 States.
E. coli Outbreak Linked to Frozen Falafel. December 2022: Illnesses 24 hospitalization 5, states 6.
E. coli Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef. October 2022: Illnesses 7 hospitalization 6, states 6.
E. coli Outbreak linked to Wendy’s lettuce. October 2022: illnesses 109, hospitalization 52, states 6.
A major food safety recall was the infant formula shortage due to Cronobacter Infections in powdered infant formula.Between September 2021 and February 2022, the FDA received complaints about four cases of illness or death in infants who consumed powdered infant formula from Abbott factory in Michigan. The FDA revealed unsanitary conditions, including five different strains of Cronobacter sakazakii within the facility. On February 17, 2022, the FDA warned consumers not to use certain products manufactured at this facility. The FDA presented and outlines to prevent Cronobacter sakazakii in infant formula. The plan includes a better understanding of best practices in manufacturing powdered infant formula and what could be done to enhance safety. The closing of the Abbott factory in Michigan caused a nationwide shortage of infant formula.
A large outbreak that was not bacteria related was the French Lentil & Leek Crumbles (June 2022). Consumer complaints of gastrointestinal illness and abnormal liver function were attributable to eating Daily Harvest French Lentil & Leek Crumbles frozen product. It caused ~400 ill people and 133 hospitalizations. Eventually, tara flour was identified as the ingredient that caused hundreds of customers to fall ill. The specific reason why tara flour is linked to illnesses is still unknown. One hypothesis is that there might be cross-contamination in this ingredient.
The main USDA/FSIS ourbreaks
E. coli Raw Frozen Diced Beef Products due to E. coli O157:H7. December 2022
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O157:H7. December 2022
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O103. October 2022
E. coli Ground Beef in HelloFresh Meal Kits due to E. coli O157:H7. September 2022
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O157:H7. August 2022
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O26. April 2022.
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O103. April 2022
E. coli ground Beef Products due to E. coli O157:H7. January 2022
Salmonella Newport in beef. October 2022
Salmonella Muenchen in beef (?) June 2022
Salmonella Enteritidis in chicken April 2022
FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety
On November 15, 2022, the FDA announced the finalization of a rule to trace contaminated food through the food supply, whether sourced in the US or abroad. The final rule requires additional traceability for manufacturers of fresh leafy greens, nut butters, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, and ready-to-eat deli salads. The goal is to identify quicker the origin and route of contaminated foods to prevent outbreaks.
Key features of the new rule include keeping records of critical events, a traceability plan, and maintenance of records that can be provided to the FDA in a storable electronic format. The FDA believes it will allow for faster identification and removal of potentially contaminated food.
However, As Dr. Gary M Weber wrote, “The rate limiting step is the diagnosis and reporting of disease and subsequent investigations is not traceability. The FDA can take no step until a suspect food vehicle is identified.” It is essential to notice that the food is often gone before the source is identified. It is interesting to note that ~50% of the outbreaks were in the CORE table, where the causative product was never identified.
Time will tell if focusing on traceability is the solution to preventing outbreaks. Contamination prevention is vital because it is often too late when we finally figure out who harvested or processed the contaminated foods. Many outbreaks end up without the causative food being identified.
The USDA, US Agency for International Development, and US FDA are launching the Food Safety for Food Security Partnership, also known as FS4FS. The initiative includes investing $15 million during the next five years to support the availability and trade of safe food products to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries. The $15 million will provide technical assistance, knowledge management, and digital tools to strengthen participating countries’ policy and regulatory environments.
Wishes for 2023
As the end of the year is approaching, it is an opportunity to extend our heartfelt greetings for the holiday season and the New Year. For 2023, let it be a spectacular year filled with food safety. We wish you and your families health, happiness, and strength. With dedication, resilience, and motivation, the food industry will continue to achieve great things in the future.