Food surveillance activities produce valuable safety-related data under the responsibility of many stakeholders in the food chain but are often under-exploited. The optimisation of surveillance systems at national level is expected in the framework of the French law for the future of Agriculture, implementing an epidemiological surveillance Platform. In the food safety sector, this project is being built step by step through consultations with the different stakeholders. This paper summarises the results of these consultations organised by the Directorate General for Food since the end of 2015; it describes the fundamental elements of an epidemiological surveillance approach on which future work can be based.
Numéro Special Edition on Food Safety Monitoring
The surveillance system for contaminants in the food chain managed by the DGAL: report on the 2014 plan campaign
The Directorate General for Food (DGAL) of the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry manages a surveillance system for contaminants in food and feed. The system is complex and involves many stakeholders interacting with one another. Its main objectives are to verify if products are safe and to monitor trends in contamination over time.
In 2014, 25 surveillance programmes were implemented, across the different food sectors all along the food chain. No less than 58,179 samples were collected and approximately 800,000 analytical results were produced. As in previous years, contamination levels in food and feed were low. Data were processed on the one hand by the authorities to implement immediate risk-mitigation measures and to
communicate about official actions, and on the other hand by the scientific community to conduct research work.
In 2014 again, when we look at the results, the surveillance system in place has shown evidence of effectiveness, despite many regulatory and methodological constraints, thanks to the strong commitment of the different stakeholders and the significant allocation of human and financial resources. However, a number of points could be improved to optimise the system and thus improve data quality and communication on the results.
In France, foodstuffs are regularly monitored in order to track contamination levels in French and imported products. This monitoring makes it possible to study trends and ensures that the maximum limits defined in the regulations are not exceeded. This article deals with the surveillance system managed by the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) in 2014 concerning persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
(dioxins and PCBs, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)) in foodstuffs of animal origin. A comparison with data from 2013 is also proposed.
In 2014, various programmes were implemented to monitor levels of POPs in animal foodstuffs (mainly set by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006), for a total of 4,932 samples taken, the vast majority of which involved DL-PCBs (1,954 samples) and NDL-PCBs (2,666 samples). This number of samples was higher than in 2013 (2,697 samples), but for these two years, conclusions were similar:
observed contamination levels were low and the maximum limits were seldom exceeded (at a rate of less than 1%). Exceeded limits involved only dioxins and PCBs (DL and NDL) in fish meat. The alert thresholds (defined at national level) were also exceeded for the same compounds in game meat.
However, the conclusion should be confirmed in light of future sampling, due to small sample numbers and/or changes in the sampled matrices (foodstuffs of different natures, with different places of origin, etc. from one year to another).
Surveillance of trace metals in foods of animal origin - focus on the exploratory plan to test for methylmercury in fish
cadmium, nickel and mercury in foodstuffs of animal origin is ensured by an operational plan aiming at risk identification and the quantification and characterisation of the hazards related to trace metals found in foods.
In 2014, several surveillance and control plans (targeted sampling) as well as an exploratory plan were implemented to monitor trace metals (lead, cadmium, mercury and methylmercury) in foodstuffs. These plans generated 6,908 analyses in various matrices (fish products, livestock products, milk, game, poultry, rabbits and honey). Processing of the results showed a completion rate of 99.3% and a rate of non-compliance (with the regulatory maximum levels or national alert thresholds) ranging from 0.7% to 16% across all sectors, excluding the equine industry. The identified non-compliances were managed based on the identified risk. They also helped to maintain or strengthen the surveillance of certain analyte/matrix pairs, such as lead in game meat and cadmium in equine liver.
In general, the surveillance system in place has contributed to estimating consumer exposure to trace metals as well as to populating databases (methylmercury exploratory plan) for enhanced risk assessment. The analysis of the monitoring system was an opportunity to present prospects for improvement including the need to define more suitable sample targeting criteria that are easier to implement. Another area for improvement would be the implementation of a tool for improving the quality of data generated by monitoring and control plans.
This paper presents the French national system for monitoring three groups of marine biotoxins regulated in shellfish, implemented firstly in marine production areas by the REPHY REPHYTOX network of IFREMER and secondly at the distribution level through the network of laboratories approved by the Directorate General for Food within the framework of official controls. The European regulations, the nature of the shellfish toxins, and analytical methods used are presented. The sampling procedures and strategy, as well as the results obtained by each of the two systems mentioned, are presented and discussed.
Trichinella is a foodborne zoonotic parasitic nematode. The infective muscle larvae of the parasite enter the muscle cells of the host. Infection of humans or animals occurs through the consumption of raw or undercooked meat. Trichinella spp. is a major parasite of pigs, carnivores and omnivores. The parasite circulates in wildlife and can thus infect domestic animals in contact mainly with contaminated animals’ carcasses. Meat inspection at the slaughterhouse is mandatory under international and European regulations, as is the inspection of all game animals intended for human consumption. In cases of private consumption, testing for larvae in meat is recommended. During the 1975-1999 period, human trichinellosis outbreaks occurred in France and led to the implementation of a monitoring system including the training of technicians from routine laboratories, standardisation and harmonisation of the network with the gold standard reference method of artificial digestion, as well as the establishment of a quality assurance programme with ring trials, the certification of routine laboratories by the Ministry of Agriculture, and laboratory accreditation. As a consequence, since 1999 the autochthonous cases of
human contamination have been linked to consumption of meat that is not controlled by the veterinary services. The implemented system can thus be considered as effective in protecting consumers from Trichinella infections.
The French national meat inspection database (SI2A) was launched in all French cattle slaughterhouses on 1 January 2015. It has enabled the surveillance of annual bovine cysticercosis prevalence and incidence rates. In 2015, raw apparent prevalence was 0.123% [0.122-0.123] (95 CI) for both viable and degenerated cysts and 0.0096% [0.0095- 0.0098] for viable cysts. True prevalence was estimated
at 1.07% [0.72-1.67] and 0.08% [0.06-0.13] for both viable and degenerated cysts and for viable cysts respectively. The comparison of raw apparent prevalence in 2010 and adjusted prevalence for age-sex in 2015 showed a slight but statistically significant decrease during this period. This decrease could be attributed either to an improvement in the bovine cysticercosis situation or to lower meat inspection detection sensitivity in 2015 due to a difference in data collection methodologies. The implementation, in addition to the current surveillance system, of a method for identifying farms/areas at higher risk for infestation in France could enable the development of more appropriate prevention and control measures.
Some chemicals introduced intentionally (veterinary drugs, additives) or illegally (banned substances) in the diet (drinking water, feed) of poultry are likely to be transferred to the muscles and also to the eggs in laying females (hens, quails, etc.). In the EU, while some antibiotics are registered as veterinary drugs (Regulations (EC) No 470/2009 and (EU) No 37/2010), most coccidiostats are registered as additives in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 on additives for animal feed. This paper aims to present the results of French control plans for antibiotics, anthelmintics, coccidiostats and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in poultry meat (broilers, turkeys, other poultry) and eggs (hens, quails) for 2015. The results show that most poultry and eggs are marketed free of veterinary drug residues. The implementation of the Hygiene Package should further reduce the non-compliance rate for some of these substances and guarantee products against these risks.
The French system for surveillance of contamination by plant protection products in foodstuffs of animal origin
Every year, programmes for the surveillance and control of contamination in foodstuffs of animal origin are organised by the Directorate General for Food (DGAL). These programmes constitute an important tool in the food safety system. In animal production, eleven surveillance programmes are carried out for the detection of pesticide residues. Samples are collected in the preliminary stage in farms. Multi-residue methods are used to test for pesticide residues in foodstuffs. Programmes organised in 2014 and 2015 generated nearly 161,000 analysis results. Detected contamination levels were very low (no non-compliant samples in 2014, two in 2015) in accordance with the results obtained by other Member States. The only two non-compliant samples detected concerned lindane. This contamination was probably due to the persistence of this substance in the environment.
Plans for the surveillance and control of the contamination of foodstuffs of animal origin are organised each year by the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) in accordance with European regulations. For the beekeeping sector, samples are collected at the preliminary stage from French beekeepers. Pesticide residues (veterinary drugs and plant protection products) are analysed in honey using gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). The results of the 2014 and 2015 plans show low levels of contamination below the maximum residue limits (MRLs).
The use of growth promoters in farm animals has been banned within the European Union since 1988. In order to guarantee to consumers that foodstuffs are free from residues of this type of substance, a European surveillance and control system supports this measure, which has been organised in France since 1988 within the framework of the surveillance and control programmes implemented by the
Directorate General for Food. This paper aims to describe the regulatory framework and the terms of implementation regarding compounds of interest, animal species concerned, relevant biological matrices and appropriate analytical strategies. Data obtained from the 2014 plans illustrate the entire system.
Surveillance of shigatoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) in refrigerated fresh minced beef on the French market in 2015
Shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) are considered as major pathogens causing severe and sometimes lethal infections in humans. Although more than 200 serotypes have been reported, only seven of them have been consistently associated with severe cases. Transmission of VTEC to humans occurs mainly through consumption of undercooked minced beef contaminated by animal faeces.
Although there are no statutory criteria, meat containing one of these strains is considered as harmful to health. Thus, the surveillance plan conducted in 2015 aimed to assess, for fresh minced beef on the French market, the rate of contamination by VTEC identified as a higher risk in order to assess consumer exposure.
The results obtained confirm that the contamination rate for meat was low (0.3%; 95CI [0.01-1.9]) and similar to those obtained previously, suggesting that the risk of human exposure via the consumption of minced beef in France remains limited. The only strain isolated was an O103:H2 VTEC strain showing genetic markers of greater virulence.
The Directorate General for Food will continue to monitor VTEC contamination in beef collected on the market in 2016.
Surveillance of Salmonella contamination of pig carcasses through own-check undertaken at the slaughterhouse
Salmonellosis is the major cause of foodborne outbreaks caused by bacteria in Europe. In 2014, the European Commission reinforced the supervision of this contamination in the pig sector. In this context, the General Directorate for Food implemented a new system to centralise regulatory own-check for Salmonella in pig carcasses. The results provide an estimate of the level of contamination of carcasses, at national level and for each slaughterhouse. Variability in levels of contamination can be associated with risk factors, which could be the subject of dedicated studies. These results are intended to be transmitted each year to the European Food Safety Authority for comparison among Member States. They could also be used at national level to raise the awareness of stakeholders.
Programmed surveillance of Salmonella spp. contamination of fresh poultry meat at slaughterhouse and the antimicrobial resistance of strains isolated in 2014
Programmed surveillance of Salmonella spp. contamination of fresh poultry meat at slaughterhouse and the antimicrobial resistance of strains isolated in 2014. In 2014, implementing Decision 013/652/EU on the surveillance and reporting of antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and commensal bacteria, the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) organised a surveillance programme on poultry carcass contamination by Salmonella spp. at slaughterhouse. The antimicrobial resistance of these Salmonella isolates was also assessed. In order to produce data representative of the slaughtered volume nationwide, only certified poultry slaughterhouses were targeted in mainland and overseas France. Contamination by Salmonella spp. was on average greater than 10%. Turkey carcasses displayed
higher contamination rates than chicken carcasses. The most commonly observed serovars were not those regulated in fresh poultry meat. Therefore, non-compliance rates remained very low, at around 1%. The resistance profiles observed rarely involved critically important antibiotics for human health. Multi-drug resistance appeared to be quite rare in chickens, while it was more frequent in turkeys. This
programme is designed to be reproduced every other year in order to provide temporal trends as well as comparable data at European level.
serotyping results for Salmonella isolated on a voluntary basis in the food chain, in all industries and sectors. This outbreak surveillance supplements the official inspections undertaken every year. This massive volume of data collected by ANSES confirms the trends and emerging strains reported at European level. All origins combined, S. Typhimurium and its monophasic variants as well as S. Enteritidis are the main isolated strains. For many years, Salmonella has been a major microbiological contaminant responsible for foodborne epidemics in France and Europe. Optimising the
assessment and management of the risk of salmonellosis in humans and animals requires the collection of high-quality data, over a suitable time period. In 2015, after a process was undertaken to evaluate its operations, this network launched a major campaign to modernise its analytical tools and tools for the management, interpretation, sharing and communication of information to better meet the needs expressed by the stakeholders and users of this surveillance system. In addition to being tested for their serovar, the Salmonella isolated through this network can be characterised for their potential epidemiological link. New typing methods based on genome sequencing offer highly promising prospects in this area.
A shared molecular database for the surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes in the food chain in France
Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) is a ubiquitous bacterium responsible for a rare but serious infection: listeriosis. Transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food, listeriosis is fatal in 20% to 30% of cases. It mainly affects people with a weakened immune system. Therefore, the surveillance of strains isolated from the food chain and the environment is essential. An effective food chain surveillance
system requires the centralisation of high-quality data and the production of useful and accessible information. ANSES, under its mandates as National Reference Laboratory (NRL) and European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Lm, provides scientific and technical support prior to this data collection. In particular, it harmonises typing methods for strains isolated from the food chain, and organises training and inter-laboratory proficiency tests for laboratories in the French and European networks. In France, as part of the ARMADA Joint Technological Unit (UMT), ANSES and the French Pork and Pig Institute (IFIP) have been working for four years on the development of a national database for the centralisation and sharing of epidemiological and genetic data on the strains held by the two organisations. Over time, it will be shared with four other French technical institutes and the ANSES laboratories involved in Lm surveillance. This database is interconnected with the European database
system developed by the EURL and the European Food Safety Authority, which makes it possible to report data collected nationwide at European level. The database of the ARMADA UMT currently contains 1,200 strains typed by PFGE, sharing 256 combined ApaI/AscI profiles. This tool is enhancing the surveillance of strains circulating in the various food sectors in France.
Results of histamine monitoring in refrigerated fish with high histidine concentrations in France (2010-2012 and 2015)
Fresh fish with high concentrations of histidine are the main contributors to histamine risk. From 2010 to 2012, a monitoring plan for fresh fish with high concentrations of histidine was carried out. Sampling was established according to consumption data. It took into account both seasonal and regional distribution, in order to be representative of consumer exposure. Mean histamine concentrations showed little differences between sampled fresh fish. Probabilities of exceeding the regulatory limits or concentrations that have a known impact on consumer health appeared to be better indicators of food safety and
quality. The species that most contributed to consumer exposure, with high concentrations of histamine, was chilled tuna. In addition, the 2015 results, obtained from a smaller sample, show there is greater uncertainty regarding the indicators, and possible changes in consumer exposure can thus no longer be estimated.
This article briefly presents the two French systems for food alert management and food-borne outbreak surveillance as well as a specific annual report for both systems. The food alert management system and food-borne outbreak surveillance are considered complementary to optimise consumer safety.