Why is it so difficult to trace the origins of food poisoningoutbreaks? – Food Flexible Packaging Manufacturer

As consumers we are used to seeing country of origin labels oncertain foods, but what about on products with more than oneingredient? A recent study by the Food Safety Authority of Irelandshowed that 53 countries contributed to the ingredients of anordinary “Chicken Kiev” in a Dublin restaurant. Thisdiversity of sources is partly to blame for the failure to identifythe sources of food poisoning outbreaks, and has lead to calls forinternational health agencies to initiate a system to monitor this’human food web.’ But just how complex is the human food web? Whatis its structure, can we quantify it, and what can we learn fromit? In the first study of its kind, published in the journal PLoS ONE , the scientists studied databases of food import and export tounderstand how ‘food fluxes’ generate a complicated worldwidenetwork. They were led by Professor József Baranyi of theInstitute of Food Research, which is strategically funded by theBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Using agro-food import-export data from the UN and FAO databases,the authors chart out the worldwide food-transport network and showthat it forms an amazingly complex transport web. PBL Tube

With the help ofnetwork science methods they reveal that it has highly vulnerablehotspots and demonstrate that, without increased control, some ofthese are prime positions for making outbreak tracing difficult. The research identifies a number of countries as being central tothe network or holding particular influence due to the dynamics ofthe food traffic, and stricter regulation in monitoring food tradehere could benefit the network globally. Countries that take inmany ingredients, process these into products, and act asdistribution hubs are of particular concern. “We found that the current structure of international foodtrade effectively makes The Netherlands a combined melting pot andLazy Susan, with the busiest link to Germany,” said ProfessorBaranyi. “This could explain why the tracing of the sourcesuffered long delays in these countries in two serious outbreaks in2011. Food Flexible Packaging Manufacturer

This could be observed in both the E. coli outbreak in sprouts and the dioxin contamination in eggs.” The findings are supported by two types of analyses: one is basedon the graph theoretical analysis of the structure of theinternational food trade network that allows the identification ofthe network core using the well- established “betweennesscentrality” measures of nodes and edges for this purpose; theother is a measure based on the dynamics of the food-flow on thenetwork, expressing to what extent a country is a”source” or a “sink.” Given the demonstrated complexity of the human food web, this workalso introduces and validates for the first time a rigorous,quantitative methodology to help with biotracing and identifyingthe sources of food poisoning outbreaks, a problem that is onlyexpected to increase in its magnitude, complexity and impact, inthe face of current globalization trends. PBL Tube Manufacturer

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