Food safety

INFOSAN Quarterly Summary
(July-September 2018)


During the third quarter of 2018, the INFOSAN Secretariat has been involved in 32 food safety events involving 141 WHO Member States. There were 19 events involving a biological hazard (Salmonella (8), Anisakis(1), Bacillus cereus(1), Clostridium botulinum (1), Clostridium perfringens(1), Cronobacter sakazakii(1), Cyclospora cayetanensis (1), E. coli(1), Listeria monocytogenes (1), Pseudomonas(1), Staphylococcus aureus(1), Vibrio parahaemolyticus(1), six involving a physical hazard (metal (4), glass (2)) four involving a chemical hazard (iodine (2), boron (1), and histamine (1)), two involving an unknown hazard, and one involving an undeclared allergen (shellfish).

The food categories most commonly involved in these 32 events were herbs, spices and condiments (6), snacks, desserts and other foods (6), fish and other seafood (5), milk and dairy products (5), bottled drinking water (2), foods for infants and small children (2), vegetables and vegetable products (2), cereals and cereal-based products (1), fruit and fruit products (1), nuts and oilseeds (1). In one instance the food category was unknown.

During such international food safety events, the INFOSAN Secretariat relies on the swift action of national INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points to respond to requests for information. Rapid sharing of information through INFOSAN enables members to implement appropriate risk management measures to prevent illness in their respective countries.


These events involved Member States from all WHO regions: Europe (52), followed by Africa (29), the Americas (21), the Western Pacific (19), the Eastern Mediterranean (16) and finally South-East Asia (4).

During this quarter, a protracted outbreak of Listeriosis was reported across five Member States of the European Union and was linked to frozen vegetable products distributed to over 120 countries. The INFOSAN Secretariat worked in collaboration with the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) as well as with INFOSAN members in the exporting countries to identify and share export details with recipient countries. During this event, information sharing through INFOSAN helped to facilitate the recall of affected products, the provision of public health advice to consumers, and the implementation of risk management measures to reduce exposure to the implicated products around the world. This outbreak serves as a reminder to consumers that frozen raw vegetables should be cooked or heat-treated properly before consumption.


In July 2018, the INFOSAN Secretariat attended the 41st Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome to host a side event about INFOSAN, Codex and recent major food safety events . The objective of the side event was to provide participants with an overview of INFOSAN by discussing two recent and significant global food safety emergencies during which INFOSAN was instrumental in coordinating the rapid exchange of information between members around the world. Events discussed included the large and protracted outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa linked to ready-to-eat meat, and the outbreak of Salmonella agona infections in France linked to globally distributed food products for infants. Both of these events highlight the application of several key codex standards and guidelines and illustrate the importance of their adoption and adaptation in order to prevent foodborne illness.

Later in July 2018, a workshop about the development of an Arab Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (ARASFF), developed under the auspices of the Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation (SAFE) was held in Tunis, Tunisia, in collaboration with the INFOSAN Secretariat. Twenty-five participants from 13 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa attended in order to discuss the future development of ARASFF and the important interface this will have with INFOSAN. Regional networks can serve to strengthen INFOSAN globally in several ways, including as important sources of food safety intelligence. However, we need to ensure complementarity of such systems and avoid the creation of parallel communication tracks, especially during food safety emergencies. Ensuring members of regional networks, such as ARASFF, are also designated as INFOSAN members is one way that this has been achieved.

In September 2018, an online emergency communication exercise was organized for INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points and National IHR Focal Points from 12 countries in the Americas. The objectives of the exercises were to: 1) familiarize participants with the type of information typically requested and exchanged through INFOSAN during an international food safety emergency; 2) verify the communication channel between INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points and National IHR Focal Points; and 3) ensure INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points can access and utilize the INFOSAN Community Website. Feedback from INFOSAN members following the exercise indicated that participation highlighted specific areas to be strengthened in order to bolster preparedness for food safety emergency response in the future.