Annual public health report details foodborne illnesses and the impact of COVID
There has been a decline in reports of four foodborne pathogens and the number of incidents and recalls over the past year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) annual report.
It covers activities in 2020-2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, as well as statistics from enforcement and food crime.
Confirmed laboratory reports of foodborne illness have decreased for four pathogens in 2020 compared to 2019. Campylobacter has fallen to 49,222, E. coli O157 to 566, Salmonella to 4,442, and Listeria to 136. This may be due to factors such as underreporting of confirmed cases. lab reports as well as changes in eating behaviors and hand hygiene, according to the report.
The FSA is conducting infectious bowel disease investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic and analysis of hospital admissions to estimate the pandemic’s impact on foodborne illness.
Emily Miles, FSA’s chief executive, said the agency had tried to ease the pressure on local authorities, helping them prioritize food standards interventions and reduce traffic in businesses to minimize harm. non-essential contacts.
âWe have turned people away to COVID-19, which has resulted in some activity slowing down, as the program milestones in this report show, and spending under-spending. To mitigate the loss of access to EU incident identification systems, we have developed the FSA’s ability to detect, respond to and prevent food safety incidents. The changes we implemented were delivered in time for January 1, but now we must continue to work hard and be vigilant to ensure consumers remain protected, âshe said.
âWe have made some progress on our Achieving Business Compliance program, which is developing a new regulatory model to give us more leeway to protect consumers in the rapidly changing global food system. We are also working to modernize the way official controls on meat, dairy and wine are carried out so that we can make improvements with more efficiency and resilience. “
Sampling, incidents and alerts
There was a 70% reduction in the number of samples processed by official laboratories at the start of the pandemic. A total of 7,510 samples were collected as part of FSA activities. The agency has developed a short-term sampling program focused on food risks associated with supply chain disruption during the pandemic.
A total of 2,157 notifications of food, feed and environmental contamination incidents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were investigated by the FSA during for the period 2020-2021. This represents a decrease from 2,478 in 2019-2020.
The number of alerts in 2020-2021 was 136. This included 65 allergy alerts, 70 product recall advisories, and a food alert for action. In 2019-2020, the overall figure was 178.
The decline reflects the decrease in the number of food companies trading during the pandemic, as well as factors such as fewer new launches to come to the market and a reduction in the complexity of the product lines on offer, according to the report.
FSA audited 514 food companies during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The program in meat establishments was postponed for three months from April 2020. This did not apply to sites classified as âImprovement Neededâ or âUrgent Improvement Neededâ at their last audit, nor to factories exporting to other countries that have been remotely audited.
The number of food hygiene assessments issued in 2020-2021 was much lower than in previous years, but there has been a sharp increase in the number of businesses awaiting their first inspection. In total, 30 percent of outlets awaiting inspection were classified as other food service establishments, which includes home caterers. As the restrictions are lifted, authorities expect a number of them to cease to operate.
Enforcement actions from April 2020 to March 2021 included 50 hygiene improvements and 107 corrective action notices compared to 126 and 150 during the same period in 2019-2020.
In 2020-2021, four cases investigated by the FSA for breach of food hygiene rules were brought to court with convictions against five defendants. 13 more were in progress. There were 91 investigative referrals in England and Wales in 2019-2020 and no prosecution was initiated on 58 occasions.
Food crime operations
Ruth Hussey, acting president of the FSA, said it had been a difficult year with COVID-19 and the transition period to leave the European Union.
âWhen the application priorities were adjusted to respond to the pandemic, they ensured that food security was not compromised. Steps were also taken swiftly to ensure that FSA veterinarians and meat hygiene inspectors could continue their essential work of ensuring the safety of the meat supply chain, âshe said.
“The chief executive told the board in December that despite extensive preparations there would inevitably be issues that the FSA would not have been able to prepare for, meaning that the post-agility period transition would be as important as its planning. “
Thirteen COVID-19 infections involved frontline staff fulfilling their regulatory roles at three food companies.
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) participated in 70 investigations in 2020-2021. No one has been charged or in any criminal justice process following an investigation by the NFCU, but there will be transactions that will result in a case before the Crown Prosecution Service in 2021- 2022, according to the report.
In three weeks, the NFCU carried out an operation that led to the seizure of 20 tonnes of meat products, which the unit said was going to be used to commit fraud. Proceeds were also seized in connection with an action against an individual convicted of selling 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP).
“Although the pandemic has created new food fraud risk areas linked to the disruption of supply chain authenticity checks and regulatory activity, as well as new patterns of consumer demand and With a tight supply, the evidence that criminals have exploited these risks remains limited, âthe report said. .
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