FSA News Item, 4 July 2006
[For previous news item on this topic, see 30 June 2006]
As part of its investigation into salmonella contamination that led to Cadbury Schweppes' recall of seven own-brand chocolate products, the Food Standards Agency sought the views of the independent Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF).
This update includes a summary of the ACMSF's Salmonella Contact Group's conclusions, plus some further background information about the recall.
Salmonella can cause sickness and diarrhoea and the Agency is advising people not to eat any of the affected products listed below. If you have any of these products, you can return them to: Cadbury Recall, Freepost MID20061, Birmingham B30 2QZ for a voucher. For more details you can ring the Cadbury Schweppes helpline number on 0800 818181.
Investigations by the Food Standards Agency and local authorities are continuing.
Summary of ACMSF Salmonella Contact Group's conclusions
The Salmonella Contact Group of the ACMSF met in Oxford on Friday 30 June to discuss the issue. It concluded:
‘The presence of salmonella in ready-to-eat foods such as chocolate is unacceptable at any level. End-product testing is not a suitable instrument for guaranteeing the safety of the food and a robust HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) needs to be in place.
‘In order to give assurance about the absence of salmonella or any other pathogen in food a prohibitively large amount of product would need to be tested. However, even this would not guarantee absence of the micro-organism.
‘Cadbury's risk assessment assumes that a threshold for infection can be estimated from previous outbreak data on levels of micro-organisms in chocolate. Such a threshold is not the same as the minimum infectious dose for salmonella in chocolate; no minimum infectious dose can be defined and infections may occur in consumers exposed to significantly lower levels than that seen in previous outbreaks.
‘Cadbury's risk assessment does not address the risk of salmonella in chocolate in a way which the ACMSF would regard as a modern approach to risk assessment.
‘Based on the information provided, Cadbury appears to have used methods for product testing which the committee considered would underestimate the level and likelihood of salmonella contamination. Sample heterogeneity including clumping of bacteria will influence the MPN (most probable number) estimate and therefore the approach cannot be relied upon in foods such as chocolate.
‘In the ACMSF's view, using the MPN approach to assess the risk of small levels of salmonella contamination in a product like chocolate is unreliable.
‘The committee also commented that where contaminated chocolate crumb was used in the manufacture of products other than those recalled, there could also be a cause for concern. However, the committee acknowledged that it was difficult to quantify the risk.'
Cadbury Schweppes plc first told the Food Standards Agency on Monday 19 June 2006 that they had detected salmonella contamination of products from its plant in Marlbrook, Herefordshire, in January 2006.
The Agency obtained further details from Cadbury Schweppes that led, on Wednesday 21 June, to the Agency advising the company to recall the affected products, which the company initiated on Friday 23 June.
Investigations have been continuing with the company and a number of local authorities are involved. Information subsequently provided by the company indicated that contamination of its products with Salmonella Montevideo had been identified in April 2002, but these products were destroyed.
Cadbury has told the Agency that they tested the ‘crumb'- the ingredient that forms the basis for chocolate products - and some samples of the crumb tested positive for salmonella.
The company then tested its chocolate products made from the crumb, which revealed the contamination of the seven products withdrawn on Friday 23 June.
The company has withdrawn those products where samples tested positive and increased testing on all other products. On the basis of the information supplied by the company to the Agency in the week beginning Monday 19 June, the Agency believes that proportionate action was taken by recalling the seven products.
However, the Agency and local authorities are continuing to investigate the incident, and further action will be informed by any emerging evidence.
The food safety requirements of EC Regulation 178/2002 require that food shall not be placed on the market if it is considered injurious to health or unfit for human consumption.
Details of the products recalled by Cadbury Schweppes
The Agency issued a Food Alert relating to the Cadbury Schweppes recall on 23 June 2006 and an update on 30 June. The 23 June alert provided details of the products being recalled. These are:
On 30 June the company issued some clarification about the Freddo product. The product being recalled is the one where '10p' is printed onto the foil that each product is wrapped in.
Some boxes have '10p' printed on the box and not on the individual foil. These are not being recalled.
The Agency's Food Alert update of 30 June made clear that the following Freddo products are not affected by the recall:
In addition, the Cadbury Dairy Milk Mint 250g bar, which has been recalled, is also available, with 33% extra free, printed onto the foil. These are also being recalled.