In 2022, two major incidents of contaminated products in Belgium made the news, the common themes: delicious chocolate and Salmonella spp, specifically Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Tennessee.
A brief recap of the Belgium Salmonella outbreaks
In April, the Belgium Ferrero factory recalled selected batches of Kinder Surprise products following investigations which found a link between reported cases of Salmonella poisoning across the UK and a specific product produced by Ferrero in Arlon.
Not long after and authorisation for the factory was removed. A conditional authorisation was granted in June, which saw it restart its production lines.
A month later and Barry Callebaut suspended production at its plant in Wieze, Belgium, also due to Salmonella.
The first cleaned and disinfected products lines were reopened in August, with the factory back in action fully by October 2022.
Generally speaking, the public will associate such bacteria with raw meat but not necessarily dry ingredients like chocolate. However, those of us in the food industry will know that chocolate is made in low moisture environments, an area in which the likes of Salmonella thrives. However, just because we’re aware, doesn’t mean we’re immune.
Although you should do everything in your power to avoid food safety incidents, as they can cause reputational damage, cause public harm and be very costly, they do happen – and can happen to anyone. Even big, well-known brands, as 2022 demonstrated.
The important thing is learning from our mistakes and learning from the mistakes of others too, as food safety consultant and microbiologist, François Bourdichon told Food Manufacture.
“Learning from others is key to drive continuous amelioration,” he noted. “One might never be able to eliminate the risk of an incident – but at least, be prepared.”
So, with that in mind, what can we learn from 2022’s big Belgium outbreaks?
Lesson one: Contamination can occur anywhere
According to solutions provider Premier Forrester, it’s about looking at all types of production equipment and ensuring a proper hygiene plan is in place for each.
“Contamination can happen at any stage of the production process and can be microbiological, chemical or physical,” the spokesperson told Food Manufacture. “Therefore, hygiene cannot be overlooked at any part of the process. However, specifically in chocolate production, we have to be mindful that this is an open process where the product comes into contact with the production equipment without an elimination step to remove certain types of contamination, e.g. cooking in bakery products.”
The company heeded this advice: “We must focus on the hygiene of all production equipment, from storage tanks and pipework down to chocolate moulds. Ensuring we have the appropriate cleaning and decontamination measures in place is paramount to increasing process safety and product durability which, ultimately, protects consumer health.”
Lesson 2: Being extra cautious can pay off
While each situation has its specifics, Bourdichon believes there are two big lessons from these episodes.
The first is that “crisis management success starts with a good assessment of the situation, and a clear bold action plan”.
“Both incidents were caused by contaminated raw material, buttermilk in one case, lecithin in the other,” Bourdichon explained. “One operator blocked five days of production, had the usual cleaning procedure performed and continued business as usual until production was stopped later on – a decision of the local food safety authority. At least 500 people were hospitalised.
“The other, stopped production, recalled every delivered product to the customer regardless of what the certificate of analysis said, and cleaned the factory thoroughly for several days before a slow and graduate reopening. No hospitalisation has been linked to this later episode.”
The key takeaway here, Bourdichon reveals is that there is no room for “mild decisions” when it comes to a food safety incident.
“The corrective action will have a financial consequence, but always far less than an uncontrolled situation.”
Lesson three: A renewed focus on logistics
Criticality of raw materials and a need for enforcement of supervision of logistics is also imperative, Bourdichon continued.
“Despite an identification of raw material as the origin of contamination, no specific deviation was publicly reported from the two production sites respectively,” he said. “What could have happened in between? While this is still under investigation, the bulk delivery should be considered as a potential origin of these episodes.”
He continued: “Transportation and storage are considered in the EU 852/2004 regulation, but guidelines and supervision are lacking for this part of the food chain. Maybe it is time to reconsider the impact of this part of the food chain? Some food companies have implemented internal services for bulk delivery, yet the majIn 2022, two significant cases of infected items in Belgium made the information, the usual motifs: delicious chocolate as well as Salmonella spp, especially Salmonella Typhimurium as well as Salmonella Tennessee.
A quick wrap-up of the Belgium Salmonella episodes
In April, the Belgium Ferrero manufacturing facility remembered chosen sets of Kinder Shock items complying with examinations which located a web link in between reported instances of Salmonella poisoning throughout the UK as well as a certain item generated by Ferrero in Arlon.
Not long after as well as authorisation for the manufacturing facility was eliminated. A conditional authorisation was approved in June, which saw it reactivate its assembly line.
A month later on as well as Barry Callebaut put on hold manufacturing at its plant in Wieze, Belgium, likewise because of Salmonella.
The initial cleaned up as well as sanitized products were resumed in August, with the manufacturing facility back at work totally by October 2022.
Usually talking, the general public will certainly connect such germs with raw meat however not always completely dry active ingredients like delicious chocolate. Nevertheless, those people in the food sector will certainly understand that delicious chocolate is made in reduced dampness settings, a location in which the similarity Salmonella prospers. Nevertheless, even if we’re aware, doesn’t indicate we’re immune.
Although you ought to do whatever in your power to stay clear of food safety and security cases, as they can trigger reputational damages, trigger public damage as well as be really pricey, they do occur – as well as can occur to any individual. Also huge, widely known brand names, as 2022 showed.
The essential point is gaining from our errors as well as gaining from the errors of others as well, as food safety and security professional as well as microbiologist, François Bourdichon informed Food Manufacture.
“Discovering from others is crucial to drive constant amelioration,” he kept in mind. “One could never ever have the ability to remove the threat of an event – however a minimum of, be prepared.”
So, with that said in mind, what can we pick up from 2022’s huge Belgium episodes?
Lesson one: Contamination can take place anywhere
According to remedies service provider Premier Forrester, it’s about considering all kinds of manufacturing tools as well as making sure an appropriate health strategy remains in area for every.
“Contamination can occur at any type of phase of the manufacturing procedure as well as can be microbiological, chemical or physical,” the speaker informed Food Manufacture. “Consequently, health cannot be forgotten at any type of component of the procedure. Nevertheless, especially in delicious chocolate manufacturing, we need to be conscious that this is an open procedure where the item enters call with the manufacturing tools without a removal action to eliminate particular kinds of contamination, e.g. food preparation in bakeshop items.”
The firm followed this recommendations: “We should concentrate on the health of all manufacturing tools, from tank as well as pipework to delicious chocolate moulds. Guaranteeing we have the proper cleansing as well as purification procedures in position is extremely important to enhancing procedure safety and security as well as item longevity which, eventually, secures customer wellness.”
Lesson 2: Being added mindful can repay
While each circumstance has its specifics, Bourdichon thinks there are 2 huge lessons from these episodes.
The initial is that “situation administration success begins with an excellent analysis of the circumstance, as well as a clear strong activity strategy”.
“Both cases were triggered by infected resources, buttermilk in one situation, lecithin in the various other,” Bourdichon discussed. “One driver obstructed 5 days of manufacturing, had the typical cleansing treatment executed as well as proceeded organization customarily up until manufacturing was quit in the future – a choice of the regional food safety and security authority. At the very least 500 individuals were hospitalised.
“The various other, quit manufacturing, remembered every supplied item to the consumer despite what the certification of evaluation stated, as well as cleaned up the manufacturing facility extensively for a number of days prior to a slow-moving as well as graduate resuming. No hospitalisation has actually been connected to this later episode.”
The crucial takeaway right here, Bourdichon discloses is that there is no area for “moderate choices” when it pertains to a food safety and security case.
“The restorative activity will certainly have a monetary repercussion, however constantly much much less than an unchecked circumstance.”
Lesson 3: A restored concentrate on logistics
Urgency of resources as well as a requirement for enforcement of guidance of logistics is likewise vital, Bourdichon proceeded.
“Regardless of a recognition of resources as the beginning of contamination, no particular variance was openly reported from both manufacturing websites specifically,” he stated. “What could have taken place in between? While this is still under examination, the mass shipment ought to be taken into consideration as a possible beginning of these episodes.”
He proceeded: “Transport as well as storage space are taken into consideration in the EU 852/2004 guideline, however standards as well as guidance are doing not have for this component of the food web. Possibly it is time to reevaluate the influence of this component of the food web? Some food business have actually applied interior solutions for mass shipment, yet the maj