In a statement issued on August 22, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said: “Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that eggs used in catering establishments may be linked to the recent outbreak of salmonella in England.
“There is also evidence to indicate that cases in Europe with the same strains of salmonella infection are associated with consumption of eggs.”
Public Health England (PHE), which originally alerted the public to the outbreak of Salmonella enteriditis, also issued an updated statement earlier today.
It said the number of historically linked cases had risen from 158 on August 15 to 247, of which most were associated with instances in the UK, but some hailed from France and Austria. Encouragingly, overall case reporting had slowed over the past week, it said.
“Investigations into the recent Salmonella enteritidis outbreak are progressing, at both a national and European level,” said Dr Paul Cleary, consultant epidemiologist at PHE.
“There is now evidence to indicate that cases in Europe with the same strains of salmonella infection were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source. This egg supply also reached distributors and food outlets in England, but at this stage we cannot conclusively demonstrate this is the infection source in this country.
“We are continuing to work with the FSA and public health organisations in Europe but, importantly, the decline in salmonella case reporting this week alongside other elements of our investigations reassures us that the current risk to public health is low.”
Salmonella enteritidis is a bacterium that causes gastrointestinal illness and is often associated with poultry or eggs. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever. Symptoms are self-limiting and most people recover without treatment although it is important to remain hydrated.
The FSA has reminding caterers of the following advice when handling eggs:
- keep eggs away from other foods, when they are still in the shell and when you have cracked them open
- don’t use damaged or dirty eggs
- be careful not to splash raw egg onto other foods, surfaces or dishes
- if you are breaking eggs to use later (sometimes called ‘pooling’) keep the liquid egg in the fridge and take out small amounts as needed
- use all ‘pooled’ liquid egg on the same day and don’t add new eggs to top it up
- cook eggs and foods containing eggs thoroughly
- use pasteurised egg for raw or lightly cooked foods
- always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them
- clean food areas, dishes and utensils thoroughly and regularly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs
- serve egg dishes straight away, or cool them quickly and keep chilled