Recalls and outbreaks in Finland increased in 2021

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

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

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

Of the 309 food recalls, ethylene oxide prevailed in 72 notifications. Pesticide residues caused 33 recalls and 29 recalls due to allergens. In more than half of the cases, the origin of the incompatible product was from outside the EU.

Diverse microbiological contamination such as salmonella, listeria and mold generated 49 alerts. In 2021, there were 26 recalls due to salmonella. It is found in a variety of foods, such as meat products, fish, and fresh herbs.

Disease outbreak numbers
There were 73 reports of serious allergic reactions on the National Anaphylaxis Registry in 2021, of which 47 were caused by food.

There were 46 reported foodborne outbreaks affecting 1,378 people compared to 34 with 543 people in 2020. The number of outbreaks caused by an unknown factor has been dismissed as evidence of improved incident investigation, according to the report.

The salmonella outbreak affected more than 700 people. The food involved was a salad with lettuce, cucumber and peas served in many kindergartens.

Seven outbreaks of salmonella infected 824 people, compared to three outbreaks with 21 patients in 2020.

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

Two outbreaks of E. coli infected 80 people, compared to one outbreak of 10 people in 2020. Sixty people became ill in six outbreaks of Campylobacter, compared to 43 out of three foodborne outbreaks in 2020.

Two cases of Listeria outbreaks have been linked to six diseases compared to 37 patients in two outbreaks in 2020.

Two outbreaks of Yersinia infected nine people, an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens caused 12 cases and histamine poisoning affected nine people.

Officials revealed the import of animal by-products
Meanwhile, Finnish Customs (Tulli) is investigating a criminal case involving suspected smuggling of animal feed raw materials from Denmark to Finland.

National law and European Union law regulate the use of animal by-products. By-products are animal parts that are not used as foodstuffs. Animal by-products fall into three categories based on how severe the health risks they pose. Fish waste in this case is category 2, and the Finnish Food Authority does not allow such imports due to the risk of animal disease.

Feed delivered to fur farms may be contaminated with coronavirus or other animal pathogens. According to the Finnish Food Authority, it posed a serious risk of infection with various fish diseases, salmonella and the coronavirus that is circulating in Finland. The people under investigation may have created a risk to human health as animal diseases could be spread to humans.

In 2021, a Finnish fur feed mixing plant imported fish waste from Denmark for use as feed raw materials. In Denmark, waste has been stored in a facility that also contains dead minks that have been put out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Danish company had to apply for prior permission from the Finnish Food Authority to export the product due to the higher than normal risk of animal disease.

A total of 1.3 million kilograms of fish offal were imported to the fur feed mixing plant in Ostrobothnia. The amount is equivalent to 45 trucks. Feed containing fish offal was delivered to about 50 fur farms in Ostrobothnia during spring and summer 2021. The total value of the imports was more than 200,000 euros ($201,000).

Finnish customs worked with the police in Denmark and Europol. The case relates to smuggling, causing the risk of spreading an animal disease, and violating by-product legislation.

Three people responsible for operations at a feed mixing plant are suspected in Finland. This factory has been operating for several decades and has provided fodder to dozens of fur farms in Ostrobothnia. The case will be referred to the Public Prosecution Office in the fall to consider the charges.

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