The months-long search for the origin of the multi-state Salmonella outbreak ended yesterday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement that frozen, raw, yellowfin tuna product from Moon Marine USA Corporation of Cupertino, Calif. is the source of the outbreak.
State and federal investigators have been working since January to identify the source of the Salmonella Bareillyoutbreak that has sickened at least 116 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Food Poisoning Bulletin (FPB) asked Michael Batz, Head of Food Safety Programs at the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, if he was surprised at how long the investigation into the source of the outbreak took.
“I am not surprised at how long it took. Tracking down a source of an outbreak is immensely difficult due to a variety of factors – dietary recall issues, incubation periods, product that is no longer available for testing – and this is particularly true when the product is highly perishable. This outbreak was also unusual, as Salmonella is not really associated with finfish; outbreaks are always easier to solve when the cause is one of the “usual suspects,” Batz said. In general, he added, health officials today do a much better job tracking down outbreak sources than they did even five years ago.
The tuna was processed in California but “may have passed through several distributors before reaching the restaurant and grocery market,” according to the FDA. Is this outbreak a good example of the modern challenges in food safety, FPB asked Batz.
“I would say that the large number of people affected in a wide geographic region, combined with a complicated supply chain, is indicative of a modern food safety challenge,” Batz said. Clearly, he said, “the food system is changing rapidly, with much more complex, global supply chains than ever before.”
Adapting to the changing food system means adapting our approach to food safety, shifting from a reactive model to a preventative model, Batz said. ”For industry, one example would be “test and hold” programs that release product into commerce only after microbial tests have shown a lot to be free of contaminants,” he said. “Many firms have strong preventative programs in place already. “