In 2014, fewer outbreaks of food-borne infections and food poisoning occurred in relation to previous years. However, due to a rise in the number of affected individuals per outbreak reported, the total number of sick persons has increased by 13% compared to 2013. This was demonstrated in the ‘Registry data of food-borne infections and food poisoning in the Netherlands in 2014’ report by RIVM and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
The analysis of the registry data demonstrates that a total of 207 outbreaks with 1655 affected individuals were reported in 2014, compared to 290 reported outbreaks with 1450 affected individuals in 2013. In addition, 242 individual cases of food-borne infections and food poisoning were reported to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
The figures show a relatively large number of norovirus outbreaks and a relatively small number of Campylobacter outbreaks that caused food-borne infections and food poisoning compared to previous years. The number of Salmonella outbreaks increased in 2014 compared to 2013, but was still lower than in the years preceding 2013.
Registration and research
The registry data were supplied by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and regional and municipal health authorities. Since 2014, RIVM has combined and analysed all reports as a whole. This new, integrated approach provides a clearer picture of the incidence of food-borne infections and food poisoning in the Netherlands, as well as trends over time. Not everyone affected after eating contaminated food visits their GP or informs the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. The numbers indicated therefore represent an underestimation of the actual number of food-borne infections and cases of food poisoning. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 people in the Netherlands become ill as a result of contaminated food every year.
The difference between food-borne infections and food poisoning
Food-borne infections are the result of eating contaminated food. The contamination is caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite. Infections can cause an inflammation to the stomach, intestines or other organs, as a result of which people can suffer from diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, stomach cramps and fever. In some cases, the infection remains unnoticed. Complaints arise over 8 hours after eating contaminated products, contrary to food poisoning, where toxins of certain bacteria released in the food cause complaints. In this case, complaints may occur within a few hours after eating contaminated food. Food-borne infections are commonly caused by improper hygiene during the production of preparation of food.
Many of these food-borne infections and cases of food poisoning occur in home kitchens and can be prevented by increased attention to food safety. In addition to hygienic measures, like washing hands before preparing food, it is important to prevent cross-contamination by using different chopping boards and knives for raw and cooked food.