First of all, I have to thank Prof. Alfred Hagen Meyer to give me the chance to publish this guest article on his law firm’s newsletter. He is definitely one of the most well recognised specialist in food law and his achievements, as well as his publications, are absolutely impressive both in quality and number. I strongly advise you to visit his website and check regularly for his newsletter and other free publications.
Here you can find a direct link to the current issue of the newsletter, with the full article.
On 8th September 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the final results of its study on the epidemic of hepatitis A (HAV) that, last year, hit Italy and, to a lesser extent, several other European countries and that is thought to have been caused by some mix of frozen berries of Eastern-European origin.
The study, which has been realized also with the support of the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) and of Member States’ experts, has meticulously reconstructed the traceability of the berries that were considered as potentially carriers of the infection. However, as it will be shown, these efforts have not shed light on the causes and on the origin of the contamination.
This seems, to say the least, an undesirable conclusion for one of the biggest and most violent foodborne outbreaks that Europe has witnessed over the last few years (1.444 cases, of which nearly 1.300 in Italy). It also leaves us with two unanswered questions:
- Why was this outbreak almost ignored by media and risk managers/communicators altogether?
- Why was it impossible to trace back all the lots involved and, ultimately, identify the source of the contamination?
By trying to answer these questions, we will also try to highlight the reasons why this very outbreak should be considered an important stress test for the European food safety system as a whole.