Manual for reporting on food-borne outbreaks in accordance with Directive 2003/99/EC for information deriving from the year 2015

Question Number
EFSA-Q-2015-00660
Issued
25 January 2016
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Abstract

This manual provides specific guidance for reporting on food-borne outbreaks under the framework of Directive 2003/99/EC. It is based on the reporting format described in the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report on ‘Updated technical specifications for harmonised reporting of food-borne outbreaks through the European Union reporting system in accordance with Directive 2003/99/EC’. The objective is to harmonise and streamline the reporting to EFSA by the Member States (MSs). The manual includes the definitions used for reporting food-borne outbreaks data and the variables to be reported. It provides guidance with some examples on how to report and classify the causative agents, food vehicles implicated, places of exposure, places of origin of problem and the contributory factors.

Summary

This manual provides specific guidance for reporting on food-borne outbreaks under the framework of Directive 2003/99/EC. It is based on the reporting format described in the report on ‘Updated technical specifications for harmonised reporting of food-borne outbreaks through the European Union reporting system in accordance with Directive 2003/99/EC’. The manual is intended to be used when reporting data through the Data Collection Framework (DCF) run by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The manual includes the definitions used for reporting food-borne outbreaks data and the variables to be reported. It provides guidance with some examples on how to report and classify the causative agents, food vehicles, places of exposures, places of origin of problem and the contributory factors.

The distinction between food-borne outbreaks, based on the strength of evidence implicating a particular suspected food vehicle, is specifically addressed and the data to be reported for the two types of outbreaks (food-borne outbreaks supported by ‘weak’ evidence and food-borne outbreaks supported by ‘strong’ evidence) is explained.

In 2014, EFSA revised the European Union Food-borne Outbreak Reporting System (EU-FORS). In the updated EU-FORS, information from all food-borne outbreaks is collected and the same dataset is used for both strong- and weak-evidence outbreaks.

The same dataset is used for food-borne outbreaks in which no particular food vehicle is suspected and for food-borne outbreaks in which the evidence implicating a particular food vehicle is either weak or strong. This dataset includes the number of outbreaks, as well as the number of human cases, hospitalisations and deaths, per causative agent. In addition, other information can be reported, including data on causative agents, food vehicles and the factors in food preparation and handling that contributed to the food-borne outbreaks. Member States (MSs) can also report information on the nature of the evidence supporting the suspicion of the food vehicle. This evidence can be epidemiological, microbiological, descriptive environmental or based on product-tracing investigations.

Strong epidemiological evidence includes statistical associations in well-conducted analytical epidemiological studies or convincing descriptive evidence. Product-tracing includes investigating the movement of a food product and its constituents through the stages of production, processing and distribution. Microbiological evidence includes the detection of the causative agent in the food vehicle or its component and the detection of the causative agent in the food chain or from the preparation or processing environment. Microbiological evidence has to be combined with detection of the causative agent from the human cases or symptoms in the human cases that are pathognomonic to the causative agent. Descriptive environmental evidence alone is almost invariably weak.

This manual is specifically aimed at MSs data providers to guide the reporting of the information deriving from the year 2015.

Published
29 January 2016