Food & DrinkRecalls and outbreaks increased in Finland in 2021

Recalls and outbreaks increased in Finland in 2021

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Finland saw a rise in the number of food recalls and outbreaks in 2021, according to a report. Food recalls increased for the sixth year in a row to more than 300 this past year.

The report presents findings related to food safety, official controls and monitoring programs on human food and animal feed.

The document, published by the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto), also covers food crime, inspection results, RASFF alerts, imports and exports and changes to the Food Act in 2021

Of the 309 food recalls, ethylene oxide dominated with 72 notices. Pesticide residues caused 33 recalls and 29 were because of allergens. In more than half of cases, the origin of the non-compliant product was from outside the EU.

Various microbiological contamination such as Salmonella, Listeria and molds accounted for 49 alerts. In 2021, there were 26 recalls because of Salmonella. It was found in a variety of foods, such as meat and fish products and fresh herbs.

Outbreak figures

There were 73 reports of serious allergic reactions to the national anaphylaxis register in 2021, of which 47 were caused by food.

A total of 46 foodborne outbreaks were reported affecting 1,378 people compared to 34 with 543 people sick in 2020. The number of outbreaks caused by an unknown agent declined showing investigation of incidents has improved, according to the report.

A major Salmonella outbreak affected more than 700 people. The implicated food was a salad with iceberg lettuce, cucumber and peas served in several kindergartens. 

Seven Salmonella outbreaks sickened 824 people compared to three outbreaks with 21 sick in 2020.

The most common pathogen was norovirus with nine outbreaks and 260 cases.

Two E. coli outbreaks sickened 80 people compared to one outbreak that affected 10 people in 2020. Sixty people were ill in six Campylobacter outbreaks versus 43 in three foodborne outbreaks in 2020.

Two Listeria outbreaks were linked to six illnesses compared to 37 sick in two outbreaks in 2020.

Two Yersinia outbreaks sickened nine people, one Clostridium Perfringens outbreak had 12 cases and histamine poisoning affected nine people.

Officials uncover import of animal by-products

Meanwhile, Finnish Customs (Tulli) is investigating a criminal case involving suspected smuggling of animal-based fodder raw material from Denmark to Finland.

The use of animal-based by-products is regulated by national and EU law. By-products are animal parts not used as foodstuffs. Animal-based by-products fall into three categories based on how serious a health risk they pose. The fish waste in this case is category 2, and the Finnish Food Authority does not allow such imports because of the risk of animal diseases.

Fodder delivered to fur farms may have been contaminated by the coronavirus or other animal pathogens. According to the Finnish Food Authority, it has posed a serious risk of various fish diseases, Salmonella and Coronavirus, spreading in Finland. Those under investigation may have caused a risk to human health as animal diseases can spread to people.

In 2021, a Finnish fur fodder mixing plant imported fish waste from Denmark for use as fodder raw material. In Denmark, the waste had been stored in a facility that also contained dead minks put down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Danish firm should have applied for advance authorization with the Finnish Food Authority to export the product due to a higher-than-normal risk of animal disease.

A total of 1.3 million kilograms of fish waste was imported to the fur fodder mixing plant in Ostrobothnia. The amount is equivalent to 45 truckloads. The fodder that contained fish waste was delivered to about 50 fur farms in Ostrobothnia during spring and summer 2021. The total import value was more than €200,000 ($201,000).

Finnish Customs worked with police in Denmark and Europol. The case involves smuggling, causing a risk of an animal disease spreading, and a breach of the legislation of by-products.

Three people responsible for operations at the fodder mixing plant are suspects in Finland. This factory has been operating for several decades, and has delivered fodder to dozens of fur farms in Ostrobothnia. The case will be forwarded for consideration of charges to the National Prosecution Authority in the autumn.

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