Source of UK food poisoning outbreak still unclear

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Salmonella enteriditis caused the food poisoning outbreak in the UK and the rest of Europe
Salmonella enteriditis caused the food poisoning outbreak in the UK and the rest of Europe

Related tags Food safety European food safety authority Salmonella

Food safety authorities have not yet confirmed a common source for the 156 outbreaks of Salmonella enteriditis food poisoning across Europe and the 247 UK cases.

Food safety authorities have tracked the source of cases linked to Salmonella enteriditis​ PT14b in France, Germany and Austria to an as yet unidentified egg packer in southern Germany.

In a joint statement, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said: “Sporadic or outbreak cases of Salmonella enteritidis reported by Austria, France, Germany and the UK, in addition to one case reported in Luxembourg … appear to be linked by time of symptom onset and microbiological characteristics of isolates.

“The cases in Austria, France and Germany share an epidemiological link to the same egg packaging centre in southern Germany.

‘No longer on market’

The eggs found to be contaminated are supposedly no longer on the market and their shelf life has probably expired. However, due to the delay in case reporting, it is still possible that more cases related to this event will be notified.”

But the joint ECDC and EFSA rapid outbreak assessment report published this week adds: “In June and July 2014, Public Health England (PHE) reported local and regional outbreaks of S. enteritidis PT14b, primarily linked to restaurants and takeaways at different locations in England, with 247 notified cases.

“Investigations are underway; a definitive vehicle of infection has not been identified as yet.”

Given that the outbreaks occurred at the same time and concern a similar phenotype of salmonella bacteria, understands it is unlikely the cases are unrelated. However, no conclusive epidemiological evidence has yet been confirmed.

Meanwhile, Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), repeated calls to crack down on imported eggs and urged suppliers to source eggs with the British Lion mark.

‘Health at risk’

“Over the past few years, we have been regularly informed of salmonella outbreaks connected to imported eggs – and it is time to stop putting consumers’ health at risk,”​ said Joret. “The latest announcement from EFSA is just one more reason that retailers, caterers and manufacturers should be specifying British Lion eggs or be asked to explain why not.”

Food Manufacture Group is holding a one-day Food safety conference at the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire, on October 15. The event, ‘Safe and legal food in a changing world’, ​aims to examine emerging food safety issues and the changing regulatory environment.

Speakers include Jeremy Hall, group technical director at Bernard Matthews and chairman of Campden BRI’s meat and poultry group, and John Barnes, head of the Food Standards Agency’s Local Delivery Division.

For more information, and to book a place, click here.

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