Foods of non-animal origin (FoNAO) are consumed in a variety of forms, being a major component of almost all meals. These food types have the potential to be associated with large outbreaks as seen in 2011 associated with VTEC O104. In order to identify and rank specific food/pathogen combinations most often linked to human cases originating from FoNAO in the EU, a semi-quantitative model was developed using seven criteria: strength of associations between food and pathogen based on the foodborne outbreak data from EU Zoonoses Monitoring (2007-2011), incidence of illness, burden of disease, dose-response relationship, consumption, prevalence of contamination and pathogen growth potential during shelf life. The top ranking food/pathogen combination was Salmonella spp. and leafy greens eaten raw followed by (in equal rank) Salmonella spp. and bulb and stem vegetables, Salmonella spp. and tomatoes, Salmonella spp. and melons, and pathogenic Escherichia coli and fresh pods, legumes or grains. Despite the inherent assumptions and limitations, this risk model is considered a tool for risk managers, as it allows ranking of food/pathogen combinations most often linked to foodborne human cases originating from FoNAO in the EU. Efforts to collect additional data even in the absence of reported outbreaks as well as to enhance the quality of the EU-specific data, which was used as input for all the model criteria, will allow the improvement of the model outputs. Furthermore, it is recommended that harmonised terminology be applied to the categorisation of foods collected for different reasons, e.g. monitoring, surveillance, outbreak investigation and consumption. In addition, to assist future microbiological risk assessments, consideration should be given to the collection of additional information on how food has been processed, stored and prepared as part of the above data collection exercises.
International Journal of Food Microbiology, 2015, Vol 195, p. 9-19