Foodborne outbreaks

The Microbiology Unit provides guidance for food laboratories and serves as their supporting and reference laboratory during investigations into foodborne outbreaks. Conventional microbiological analyses related to foodborne outbreaks are conducted in authorised food laboratories and only in particular cases by the Microbiology Unit at Finnish Food Authority.

Finnish Food Authority is responsible for more thorough examinations, typing and monitoring of causative agents of foodborne outbreaks isolated from food, from the production environment in food premises and from primary production sites (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Decree 1365/2011). The Microbiology Unit maintains and develops methods for the extended investigation of major food-poisoning bacteria. Extended examinations encompass biochemical identification, toxin analysis as well as serotyping and genotyping.

Extended examinations of foodborne outbreaks

Food laboratories deliver pathogenic bacterial strains isolated during outbreak examinations to the Microbiology Unit for further analysis. Such extended examinations include species identification, serotyping, toxin analysis and molecular biological studies. The Microbiology Unit also analyses rare food-poisoning bacteria when local laboratories do not have methodology for examinations. In addition, to define the infective dose, the section performs quantitative analyses on certain pathogenic bacteria detected at local laboratories with the enrichment method and suspected of having caused foodborne outbreaks.

Examinations relating to foodborne outbreaks are free of charge.

During examinations of foodborne outbreaks, local authorities collaborate with Finnish Food Authority and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Finnish Food Authority and THL have harmonised their respective PFGE typing methods for Escherichia coli O157 and Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis and Streptococcus equi ssp. zooepidemicus and for thermophilic Campylobacter species. This enables comparisons between bacterial strains isolated from patients and suspected sources during outbreak examinations.

Contact persons

Bacterial epidemics:

  • Saija Hallanvuo, mobile +358 40 489 3448
  • Maria Simola, +358 40 178 6623
  • Marjaana Hakkinen, mobile +358 400 287 417

Viral epidemics:

  • Maija Summa, + 358 50 517 1267
  • Tuija Kantala, +358 50 323 6050