EUROPE – The European Scientific Network on Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA Network) has revealed a riveting array of insights into the unseen hazards lurking in the food supply chain.

Coordinated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), this alliance of 25 member states, along with Switzerland and Norway as observers, delved into a spectrum of topics that could reshape the understanding of microbial risks.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) stole the spotlight by revisiting its 2017 opinion on Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Through an analysis of surveillance data spanning from 2017 to 2021, Anses proposed classification of STEC strains based on their virulence potential, reports Food Safety News.

Strains with specific genetic markers were identified as having the highest potential to cause severe infections, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney-damaging condition. The revelation opens a new chapter in understanding the nuances of E. coli pathogenicity.

Salmonella resurfaces in Sweden

Salmonella enteritidis made a resurgence in layer hens in Sweden after decades of dormancy. Millions of eggs were recalled, and at least 79 individuals fell ill.

A subsequent study sought to answer a crucial question: Could soft-boiled eggs from the affected batches still be safe to consume? The verdict, a temperature of at least 65 degrees C (149 degrees F) in a creamy but firm yolk, emerged as the lifeline for those questioning the safety of their breakfast choices.

Botulism in dairy

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) played down concerns about botulism lurking in dairy products.

Despite cases of botulism in the dairy herd, the agency asserted that the risk of contracting botulism from consuming milk and dairy products was very low.

Consumers were advised to refrigerate raw milk promptly and boil farm-gate milk before drinking. A seemingly reassuring stance in a landscape where fears often outpace facts.

Taenia solium’s silent spread

Belgium found itself grappling with a peculiar health mystery as three cases of neurological cysticercosis caused by Taenia solium surfaced in children from the same school in Lier.

With no travel history and different ages, the only common thread was their shared school environment. The investigation, intriguingly, focused on people in contact with the children rather than the food itself, suggesting an unseen route of transmission within the school community.

Plant-based perils

In a study evaluating three pre-packed, plant-based ready-to-eat food categories in Belgium, experts uncovered the prevalence and growth potential of Listeria monocytogenes.

Notably, plant-based dairy and meat substitutes faced scrutiny, with four outbreaks linked to cheese alternatives.

Salmonella took center stage in three instances, while Listeria made an unwelcome appearance in another.

The call for an exchange of studies came from Irish representatives, sparked by a vegan cheese-related listeriosis outbreak.

Echinococcus on the menu

A European study sent shockwaves through the continent by detecting DNA of parasitic Echinococcus multilocularis and Echinococcus granulosus sensu lato on lettuces and berries from various EU countries, including the Netherlands.

While this marked a significant leap in understanding the potential sources of human infections, the study couldn’t ascertain the viability of the eggs.

The revelation leaves a lingering question about the unseen risks that might accompany our seemingly harmless salads and berries.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.