Finland reports Yersinia rise and 2023 recall data

Finland reports Yersinia rise and 2023 recall data

Public health officials in Finland are monitoring an increase in Yersinia infections seen so far in 2024.

168 Yersinia enterocolitica cases have been reported to the Infectious Disease Register compared to 64 cases from January to April 2023.

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) said it had received two suspected outbreak alerts in April and reports about increased Yersinia enterocolitica infections from Pirkanmaa, Uusimaa, and Ostrobothnia.

In Pirkanmaa, vegetables are suspected to be the cause of illness but other sources are being investigated with the help of food sampling and patient questionnaires.

There are 43 possible cases in the region and 12 have been confirmed as Yersinia enterocolitica. The first illness occurred on March 24.

THL has asked clinical laboratories to send Yersinia enterocolitica strains isolated in April to the agency for typing. It also asked labs to report the serotype and biotype information in the infectious disease notification if this data was available.

From 2021 to 2022, five Yersinia outbreaks were reported, in which 40 people fell ill.

Yersiniosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia, which usually spreads through contaminated food.

The most common symptoms in children are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Right-sided abdominal pain and fever could be the main issues in older children and adults. Symptoms typically develop four to seven days after exposure and last one to three weeks.

The risk of infection can be reduced by cooking all meat and washing raw vegetables before eating. It is also advised to wash hands thoroughly before eating and cooking, after handling raw meat and contact with animals.

Decline in recalls
Meanwhile, the number of recalls decreased in 2023, according to data from the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto).

Food products were withdrawn from the market 250 times in Finland in 2023. The most common reasons were pesticide residues, microbiological contamination, and undeclared allergens.

The number of recalls dropped from 288 partly because the detection of ethylene oxide residues in food decreased compared to the previous two years. In 2021, there were 72 recalls due to ethylene oxide, in 2022 there were 14, and in 2023 there was only one.

Recalls due to pesticide residues increased by a few percent from the previous year. Fruits, vegetables, or other produce-based foods were withdrawn from the market 51 times. In seven cases, rice was involved. Chlorpyrifos was the reason for 17 recalls.

Microbial issues such as Salmonella, Listeria, and molds caused 49 recalls, 10 less than the previous year. Salmonella is found in various foods, such as beef and poultry meat, nuts, and sprouts. Recalls were made on 19 occasions because of Salmonella. Eight recalls were because of Listeria in the production facility or a product.

There were 30 recalls each because of undeclared allergens and additive errors. Gluten, peanuts, and milk were the most frequent causes of the former. In additive cases, foods contain an additive that is not allowed for that item, or the amount of the additive exceeds the maximum permitted level.

Of recalled food and contact materials, 39 percent originated from another European country, and 43 percent came from outside the EU. The remaining 18 percent were foods produced in Finland.

The EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) was the most important channel through which the authorities in Finland received information about the need to recall food. Planned sampling targeting risky foods by Finnish Customs (Tulli) led to 51 recalls, largely because of pesticide residues. Forty recalls were prompted by an issue found during a company’s self-monitoring.

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