Finland's National Food Agency has just reported that last year 38 outbreaks involving a total of 1,120 people were accounted for on its food poisoning register. Some 92 per cent of the outbreaks in2002 were transmitted by foods, most of which were imported from overseas.
The figures also revealed that only 8 per cent were causedby drinking water, but that these accounted for a third of reported illnesses.Faulty kitchen and hand hygiene caused a significant part of the foodborne outbreaks.
As in past years agency reported that the most common reported cause of food poisoning was thenoro-virus (previously known as the Norwalk-Like Virus and Calicivirus).This was responsible for 46 per cent of foodborne outbreaks and 67 per cent ofwaterborne outbreaks. The noro-virus also caused the most illnesses.
The share of outbreaks caused by vegetables and vegetable products hasincreased in recent years. Last year a quarter of foodborne outbreaks were inthis category. Vehicles of transmission included bean sprouts, halva, frozenberries and dried beans.
Salmonella was responsible for five outbreaks in Finland last year, the agency reported. Thebiggest of these was traced to contaminated halva from Lebanon and caused 50people in Helsinki to fall ill in late winter. An international outbreak ofsalmonella was due to contaminated chocolate from Germany. Nine cases ofinfection were reported to authorities in Finland. Campylobacter caused twosmall outbreaks. It was transmitted in one case by chicken salad and in theother by freshly picked strawberries.
All the waterborne outbreaks in 2002 were caused by groundwater. The biggestoutbreak, in Korppoo, affected 300 people.
Analysing the figures the agency said that it believed there were several main causes for the outbreaks and pointed out that food handlingpersonnel play a significant role in this regard. The most commoncontributing factors was incorrect cooking or storage temperatures and theparticipation of infected food handlers in the preparation of food andeventual substandard hand hygiene.Over half of the reported outbreaks could have been prevented through theproper handling of foodstuffs, the agency said.
The agency has a comprehensive list of reports which include a number of advisory pamphlets for food manufacturers. The publications can be viewed using this link.