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Outbreak of norovirus in Germany 'over'

By Joe Whitworth , 10-Oct-2012

German food safety chiefs have said that a norovirus outbreak that sickened more than 11,000 people is over.

Deep-frozen strawberries, imported from China, have been identified as the cause of the foodborne outbreak which reached its peak between 25-27 September and reportedly led to more than 30 people being hospitalised.

in a joint statement, the authorities said they have succeeded in systematically taking the source of the outbreak off the market.

Multi-agency approach

Three agencies investigated the outbreak and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is continuing to investigate at what stage the contamination occured and how the outbreak unfolded.

Epidemiological studies by the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI) showed that dishes made from deep-frozen strawberries in all probability caused the outbreak.

The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) narrowed down its investigation of the delivery paths to one specific batch of deep-frozen strawberries and it found some of these berries had been served without being heated prior to consumption.

The BfR, BVL and RKI said since the weekend no new cases have been recorded so it is “safe to say that the outbreak is over.”

The outbreak of acute gastroenteritis in five East German federal states, Berlin, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, mostly affected schoolchildren.

The five federal states were supplied with food products by at least ten regional kitchens of a catering firm identified as a distributor to Sodexo, a private company that provides foods and beverages to schools.

Outbreak details

A BVL spokeswoman told FoodProductionDaily.com many agencies worked on the outbreak targeting different areas.

“We investigated to clear all the kitchens where the kids had eaten and had offered meals of frozen strawberries which all came from the same batch imported from China.

“All contaminated batches have been stopped and no more will be delivered. Our role now is scientific research on the data and the percentage of the batch that was contaminated.

“It is always important to react quickly to outbreaks, we were lucky in this case because the children don’t fall ill very badly, but it was important to react to the outbreak as we did.”   

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