A draft report from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) calls for improved routine surveillance and investigation of foodborne viruses “with government agencies developing a single integrated outbreak reporting scheme”. The report is just about to go out to consultation.
Called for more research
The ACMSF working group that produced the report also called for more research on the contamination of food through sewage. “In particular, work should investigate the effectiveness of sewage treatment processes in reducing norovirus concentrations including the use of depuration on shellfish species and disinfectant treatments,” the report’s summary stated.
It also called for more research to identify the most effective means of decontaminating fresh produce – such as leafy green vegetables, berry fruits and semi-dried tomatoes post-harvest. Although the contribution of fresh produce to viral infections is uncertain, “the impact at population level could be significant given consumption levels”, said the report.
“With the emerging risk of hepatitis E in pigs from the UK, the group recommends work is undertaken to investigate the heat inactivation of hepatitis A in pork products,” it added. It also recommended that more research was undertaken on the effect of curing and fermentation on hepatitis E in products.
The report’s authors also expressed concern about the “inconsistency” of advice to consumers about foodborne viruses. “Currently, advice on viruses from different [official] sources shows a lack of consistency, with some websites not even mentioning the possibility of virus transmission through food preparation processes,” they state.
Failure to stress the need to cook shellfish, was one particular failing identified. The scientists also expressed concern about public belief in only eating oysters from September to April.