Blog talk radio interview on Hepatitis A in frozen berries

Thank you to my friend Andy Moreno, Bacterial Pathogen Surveillance Systems Engineer at AME Certified Laboratories (San Francisco) and founder of the blog talk radio AME Food Testing Show, for giving me the opportunity to be again his guest.

Last time we spoke of the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) procedures in EU. This episode is about the Hepatitis A from frozen berries crisis in EU (2013-2014).

The agenda was the following:

1. Introduction
2. Are there recurrent food safety issues related to Hepatitis A in EU?
3. Do you have a huge Hepatitis outbreak in EU in 2013, can you tell us more?
4. There were multiple outbreaks. Any link between them or with the US outbreak as well?
5. How the Authorities managed the crisis. What they suggested to consumers to avoid the infection from Hepatitis A?
6. In the end, the Authorities were able to trace back the establishments and the causes of the infection?
7. Conclusion

You can listen the full interview HERE

Hepatitis A in frozen berries: the “silent outbreak” – My article on Meyerlegal newlsetter

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.

Abstract

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.