Summarizing 2021 and looking forward to 2022
New Year wishes
As the end of the year is approaching, it is an opportunity to extend our heartfelt greetings for the season and the New Year.
May 2022 bring us all happiness and love.
May it also provide us with new inspirations, goals, achievements, and success.
Summary of the past year
2021 was still a year dominated by COVID-19, but the food industry was better equipped to continue food production without interruptions, and the virus no longer shut plants down as it did in 2020. 2021 looked much more like 2019 than 2020 for food safety when comparing outbreaks. While slow progress is being made in food safety, the number of outbreaks has not significantly diminished over the years. Foodborne diseases remain a global public health challenge worldwide.
In 2021 the CDC reported several major outbreaks. In the last couple of weeks, major outbreaks such as Fresh Express and Dole Fresh Vegetables recalled hundreds of varieties of packaged salad products over Listeria contaminations.
1. Listeria in packaged salads Dole: currently, there are 16 illnesses, 12 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths in 13 states. The product was sold under multiple brands.
2. Listeria in packages salads Fresh Express: currently, there are 10 illnesses, 10 hospitalizations, and 1 death in 8 states. The product was sold under multiple brands.
3. E. coli O157:H7 in baby spinach from Josie’s Organics: 14 illnesses, 4 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 9 states.
4. Salmonella 4,,12:i:-in Salami sticks: 34 illnesses, 7 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 10 states.
5. Salmonella Thompson in seafood: 115 illnesses, 20 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 15 states.
6. Salmonella in onions: 892 illnesses, 183 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 38 states.
7. Salmonella in Italian meats (Citterio brand Premium Italian-Style Salame Sticks): 40 illnesses, 12 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 17 states
8. E. coli O121 in cake mix: 16 illnesses, 7 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 12 states
9. Salmonella Typhimurium in packaged salads from Bright Farm: 31 illnesses, 4 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 4 states
10. Listeria monocytogenes in fully cooked chicken (Tyson): 3 illnesses, 3 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 2 states
11. Salmonella Weltevreden frozen cooked shrimp sold under multiple brand names: 9 illnesses, 3 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 4 states
12. Salmonella Enteritidis in raw frozen breaded chicken products, sold as Dutch Farms Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese, Milford Valley Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese, Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese, and Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese: 36 illnesses, 12 hospitalizations and no deaths in 11 states
13. Salmonella Duisburg in Jule’s cashew Brie: 20 illnesses, 5 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 4 states
14. Salmonella Hadar in-ground Turkey (Nature promise, Wegman, and Plainville): 33 illnesses, 4 hospitalizations, and no deaths in 14 states
15. Listeria monocytogenes in Queso Fresco (Hispanic cheeses): Illnesses: 13, Hospitalizations: 12, Deaths: 1in 4 states
16. E. coli O157:H7 in unknown food: Illnesses: 22, Hospitalizations: 11, Deaths: 1 in 7 states
Before 2020, the incidence of most infections transmitted through food had not declined for many years. The CDC estimated (https://ask-bioexpert.com/blog-post/decreased-incidence-of-infections-caused-by-food-pathogens-during-the-2020-covid-19-pandemic/) that before 2020, each year, ~48 million people got sick from foodborne illnesses, 128,000 were hospitalized, and 3,000 died. FoodNet identified 26% fewer infections in 2020, compared with the average annual number during 2017–2019. The decline was from 50 cases/100,000 during 2017-2019 to 37 cases/100,000 in 2020. The 26% decrease in the incidence of infections caused by food pathogens during 2020 was the most significant single-year variation in incidence during 25 years of FoodNet surveillance. In 2020 the CDC reported 10 outbreaks, while in 2019, 17 outbreaks were reported. The 2021 numbers resemble the pre-pandemic numbers. Therefore it looks like we are back to pre-pandemic numbers.
FDA Plans to improve food safety
The FDA presented a plan called “new era of smart food safety,” containing actions that they
intend to take to respond more quickly and more efficiently to foodborne outbreaks. The goal is to streamline and expedite outbreak response, leverage digital data, and use more sophisticated analytical methods. The plan includes:
1. better product tracing, thereby reducing the time required to identify contaminated products in an outbreak.
2. Root cause analysis to identify and share critical findings to prevent future outbreaks.
3. Faster identification of sources of food contamination and publicly sharing such findings.
4. Improve the FDA operational performance by measuring performance, streamlining it, and consequently improving performance.
The USDA launches a new effort to reduce Salmonella in poultry
In October, the USDA/ FSIS announced the initiation of a more robust and more comprehensive effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products. USDA/ FSIS initiate activities to support future action to achieve a 25% reduction in Salmonella illnesses. Each year more than 1 million consumers get ill due to Salmonella. Over 23% of those illnesses are due to the consumption of chicken and turkey.