Date PostedOctober 11, 2012

Food Safety News: Largest German Foodborne Outbreak Hits Kids

Source : Mike Licht,

The fact that children are more susceptible to foodborne pathogens than healthy adults is what makes the food poisoning incident in Germany involving 11,000 kids even more troubling. The incident highlights the need to be more careful with food being served to children because their bodies are not as developed as adults which makes their immune systems more vulnerable to these foodborne illnesses.

The German Health Ministry has isolated the cause of an outbreak of food poisoning to frozen strawberries served to children in over 500 schools and day care centres in eastern Germany. The Robert Koch Institute is charge of investigating infectious diseases on behalf of the health ministry and established the link between the strawberries and the outbreak. The government has since elected a task force to investigate the incident even further.

Apparently the strawberries came from a company who is sourced with providing food and drink to the schools and day care centres. The outsourced company has promised to screen its suppliers more carefully and also to compensate the victims of the incident.

Unfortunately the incident resulted in the infection of over 11,000 children and the hospitalisation of 32 of them who suffered severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Foodborne illnesses generally show themselves with symptoms of headaches, vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea however symptoms are not limited to these.

It is important that food is properly produced, cultivated, processed, transported and stored in order to prevent the harmful bacteria known as pathogens to multiply and cause sickness in those who consume it. Pathogens most often originate n faeces and somehow make their way into the food from contact with contaminated water, hands, utensils or packaging etc.

Some of the ways these bacterium enter foods are at home, at a restaurant or take-away, catered events or at school cafeterias like the one above. The incident above is made more serious by the fact that it involved a company serving food to children. One would assume the company would be even more cautious than others because of the age those consuming their food.

In general the most common types of contaminants that we find in food are bacterial (eg.Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, Shigella and Listeria); viral (eg.Norovirus, Rotavirus and Hepatitis A) and intoxication caused by toxins produced by pathogens (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens).

The most common ways that bacterium can enter the human body causing illness are:

  • Bacteria, including pathogens, may be present on foods such as raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, uncooked rice, flour, raw vegetables and salads when bought
  • Other pathogens develop in food as a result of poor temperature control or spoilage.
  • Pathogens can be carried on the bodies of food handlers. Pathogens are frequently present in the throat, nose, skin, hair and faeces. Pathogens can be transferred to food by touching hair or the nose, or smoking, sneezing or coughing without washing hands before handling food.


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