Food Safety

High hygienic quality in primary production and effective food control guarantee the food safety in Finland. Significant infectious diseases in animals do not occur, and the rate of zoonoses is very low.

A lot of emphasis has been given to prevention of Salmonella. One reason for the low prevalence of Salmonella in poultry is competitive exclusion, a widely used method invented by Nurmi and coworkers in the 1970s (3). On the basis of the very low rate of salmonelloses in Finland, the EU commission accepted the National Salmonella Control Programme in Finland in 1994. The purpose of the programme is to ensure the safety of foods of animal origin by limiting the number of salmonelloses in Finnish food animals and in foods of animal origin to internationally low levels. Cattle, pigs, and poultry, as well as meat and eggs, are being controlled according to the program. The preva lence of Salmonella in food animals and foods of animal origin is expected to be below 5% in each slaughterhouse and cutting plant, whereas the total prevalence in Finland may not exceed 1%. Furthermore, imported beef, pork, and poultry meat, as well as living poultry and eggs, are expected to be completely free from Salmonella. A total of 0.1% of lymph node samples and surface swap samples in beef and pork were positive for Salmonella, while in living poultry the proportion of positive samples was 0.3% according to the results of the National Veterinary and Food Research Institute. The share of Salmonella positive cattle and pig herds was below 0.3% and 0.04%, respectively. Altogether 29,255 samples were investigated.

Finnish foodstuffs are generally considered pure. The use of drugs and pesticides is widely controlled in Finland. The National Veterinary and Food Research Institute is responsible for testing residues and contaminants in meat, milk, egg, and fish samples. According to the national residue-monitoring program, no prohibited growth promoters in meat production were detected. Residues of antimicrobial drugs over the maximum residue level were found from pork (0.05%) and milk (0.81%). The content of pesticides, heavy metal, and other contaminants was low. The number of investigated samples was 26,110. Cold winters and strict hygienic control obviously cause the relatively low rate of environmental contamination in foods compared with several other industrial countries. Therefore, Finnish food meets well the consumers' expectations of foods with low environmental contamination levels.

There is an extensive surveillance system for food poisoning outbreaks in Finland. The average rate of reported food poisoning outbreaks has been 0.7 outbreaks/100,000 inhabitants in the 1990s. The average number of cases in these outbreaks has been 32 cases/100,000 inhabitants. The surveillance system yields valuable information about the infectious agents and other factors leading to the epidemics. This information is used in the controlling of epidemics by the food control authorities that in cooperation with health authorities, veterinarians, and medical doctors are responsible for the investigations of food poisoning epidemics.

A lot of research on the entire production chain has been done in Finland to improve the safety of foods. Molecular biological methods have been applied in tracing the origin of epidemics (4) and outlining the controlling measures (5).

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