FoodMicro Database

Date: 2006

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A Harmonised System for Approval and Monitoring of Private Laboratories Testing for Foodborne Pathogens

Background

The food industry on the island of Ireland carries out extensive testing of their food products but results of these analyses are not normally released for public evaluation. In order to make this information more widely available, safefood has funded research in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF), Republic of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Northern Ireland, to develop a harmonised system for the collation of data from private laboratories testing for foodborne pathogens. The FoodMicro Database is the product of this research.

This is the first report on the FoodMicro Database and it summarises information on pathogen testing of foods and other samples from food processing plants in the Republic of Ireland by DAF-approved laboratories during 2002 and 2003.

Key findings

  • Establishment of the FoodMicro Database highlights a high level of co-operation between food producers and the regulatory agencies in ensuring the highest standards of safety and quality of food produced in the Republic of Ireland.
  • During 2002 and 2003, over 300,000 microbiological tests for the presence of four pathogens, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Verocytotoxic Escherichia coli O157 (VTEC), were carried out in DAF-approved laboratories.
  • Data on Salmonella testing comprised the largest set of results in the FoodMicro Database. The samples tested included: food, animal feed, samples from the Salmonella Monitoring Programme for Poultry, and environmental samples from food premises. Of 87,464 tests for Salmonella spp. in 2002 and 96,768 tests in 2003, 1,165 (1.3%) and 1,425 (1.5%) were positive, respectively.
  • 3,380 tests for Campylobacter were performed in 2002 and 2,153 tests in 2003, with 518 (15.3%) and 747 (34.7%) testing positive in each year, respectively. The majority of isolates were from raw poultry and poultry products.
  • Of 30,151 tests for Listeria in 2002 and 55,648 in 2003, 1,827 (6%) and 3,206 (5.7%) were positive, respectively. A wide range of food products tested positive for the presence of Listeria spp.
  • A total of 8,046 tests were performed for VTEC O157 in 2002 and 9,281 in 2003, of these 24 (0.3%) and 7 (0.07%) were positive for this pathogen in each year, respectively. VTEC O157 isolates were recorded from raw beef, raw milk, a vegetable sample, a mushroom sample, mushroom casings, and environmental swabs.
  • The FoodMicro Database will over time assist with food safety monitoring and analysis of trends in occurrence of particular foodborne pathogens on the island of Ireland. Inclusion of data for foods produced in Northern Ireland is a future objective of the FoodMicro Database project.
graphic of icons of various food types