Fewer restaurant visits, social distancing, and hand washing temporarily halved the number of foodborne illnesses that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the number of cases has returned to pre-pandemic levels, reports Livsmedelsverket (known as the Swedish Food Agency in English). Vegetables and buffet food are the most common causes of food poisoning.
According to Livsmedelsverket’s report on foodborne illness in Sweden during 2022, approximately 2,200 cases were notified to municipal control authorities. Vegetables were the food category that led to the most food poisonings during 2022 with 263 cases, mostly attributed to Salmonella and Cryptosporidia contamination. Buffet food caused the second most cases of foodborne illness with 236 cases.
Of the 2,261 cases of illness reported during 2022, 303 involved two or more people that were infected through a common source, and were therefore considered to be part of an outbreak. Specifically, in 2022, two major outbreaks began and continued through 2023. One outbreak was linked to eggs contaminated by Salmonella. The egg producer is still not allowed to sell raw eggs to consumers, and is only allowed to sell eggs to other producers that heat their eggs during food production. A second outbreak was caused by smoked salmon contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and resulted in six deaths.
Although several factors have caused the increase in the number of food poisonings, Livsmedelsverket emphasizes that the report affirms the importance of frequent and thorough handwashing. For buffets, it is important that hot food is kept at the correct temperatures to prevent pathogens from proliferating.