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Sprouts Likely Source in UK Salmonella Outbreak

Raw bean sprouts are the suspected source of a Salmonella Bareilly outbreak underway since early August in the United Kingdom.

An increasing number of S. Bareilly cases, now as many as 73 illnesses, are being investigated by the UK’s Health Protection Agency and Food Standards Agency (FSA).  Health Protection Scotland and local environmental health officers are assisting.

The outbreak includes at least 58 cases in England and 15 laboratory confirmed cases in Scotland.  Fewer than 10 cases of S. Bareilly are normally diagnosed each month in the UK.

In response to the spike in S. Bareilly cases, FSA has advised the public about good handling and cooking practices for raw bean sprouts.

While sprouts are only suspected as the source of the current outbreak, FSA said to be completely safe, bean sprouts should be cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot. If large bean sprouts are added to a stir-fry, they should simmer for a few minutes.

Before cooking:

-Rinse raw bean sprouts thoroughly.

-Avoid sprouts that have turned brown or have a strange odor.

-Follow any instructions on the packaging and use the bean sprouts by the ‘use by’ dates.

-Keep them refrigerated.

-People with weakened immune systems, as well as the very old and the very young, should not eat raw sprouts.

In a statement, FSA said the cases of Salmonella under investigation are not linked to the ongoing investigation of an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 that has been linked to duck eggs. 

The two investigations involve different strains of Salmonella and are separate.

An Outbreak Control Group chaired by Dr. Joe Kearney, a director with the HPA’s Local and Regional Services Division, is investigating the national increase in S. Bareilly cases.

 “Outbreaks of Salmonella Bareilly are under investigation in North West England and Scotland and a greater than expected number of cases have been observed in England,” Dr. Kearney said. ” We’re exploring the links between the North West and Scottish outbreaks and attempting to find potential sources of the national increase. It’s an extensive exercise.”

Health Protection Units throughout England have been asked to collate information on S. Bareilly cases within their geographical areas. A team from the agency is contacting people who contracted laboratory-confirmed S. Bareilly since the beginning of August and inviting them to complete a questionnaire.

 “Salmonella infection can be debilitating, especially for young children and older people. It is important for anyone with symptoms to maintain their fluid levels and take the utmost care with hand-washing and hygiene generally,” Kearney added.

In a statement, the Outbreak Control Group stressed that bean sprouts are but one line of inquiry being pursed by investigators.  The strain of Salmonella suspected, however, has been found in some raw sprout samples and FSA said the public warning about sprouts was appropriate.

© Food Safety News