The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has warned new cases of Salmonella are ‘likely to occur’ in what it describes a ‘prolonged multi-country outbreak’ of the bacteria.
To date, the outbreak has landed nine people in hospital and one case has died, which EFSA says highlights the potential for ‘severe and fatal’ infections from this outbreak.
Links to three microbiological clusters
Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of animals and are usually transmitted to humans by eating food contaminated with animal faeces. Most people infected with the bacteria develop diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal cramps, with a majority of cases recovering without treatment.
But for others, the diarrhoea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalised, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If the infection spreads from the intestines to the bloodstream, and then onto other body sites, it can cause death – unless the person is immediately treated with antibiotics.
Between 1 January and 24 October of this year, EU/EEA countries, the UK and US have identified 335 confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis belonging to three distinct microbiological clusters.
Food safety authorities in Austria, Denmark and Italy investigated 10 food products, and eight final producers (seven in Poland and one in Austria). Findings suggest that three Salmonella-contaminated kebabs shared a number of Polish food business operators. The trading link of the suspected kebab suggests one or more common sources of contamination in Austria, Denmark and Italy.
Chicken kebab and chicken meat ‘plausible vehicles’
Authorities have concluded that the most plausible vehicles of the human infections reported in these three clusters are chicken meat and chicken kebab products.
But without conclusive microbiological evidence and ‘comprehensive’ traceability, it is not possible to determine which players in the supply chain – be it final producers, meat suppliers, or other food businesses – could be responsible.
EFSA suggests further investigations are required to identify the root cause of the contamination and the source of infections. This will be ‘crucial’ to effectively implement control and corrective measures. Without a known source, new cases are ‘likely to occur’, noted the food safety authority.
The warning comes just months after a Salmonella outbreak in England was similarly linked to Poland.