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Food-borne outbreaks

Directive 2003/99/EC defines ‘food-borne outbreak' as meaning “an incidence, observed under given circumstances, of two or more human cases of the same disease and/or infection, or a situation in which the observed number of cases exceeds the expected number and where the cases are linked, or are probably linked, to the same food source”.

Article 8 of Directive 2003/99/EC requires that food-borne outbreaks are investigated and that the investigation should provide data on the epidemiological profile, the foodstuffs potentially implicated and the potential causes of the outbreak. The investigation should include, as far as possible, adequate epidemiological and microbiological studies.

Part E of Annex IV to Directive 2003/99/EC sets out the minimum information that must be submitted in an annual report by European Union Member States to the European Commission in relation to to food-borne outbreaks. It requires that the report contains:

  • total number of outbreaks over a year;
  • number of human deaths and illnesses in these outbreaks;
  • the causative agents of the outbreaks, including, where possible, serotype (separate groups within a species of a microorganisms that all share a similar characteristic) or other definitive description of the agents. Where the identification of the causative agent is not possible, the reason for such unidentifiability should be stated;
  • foodstuffs implicated in the outbreak and other potential vehicles;
  • identification of the type of place where the foodstuff incriminated was produced/purchased/acquired/consumed;
  • contributory factors, for example, deficiencies in food processing hygiene.