A Salmonella outbreak in Europe that may have been ongoing since 2012 is believed to be responsible for the recent death of a child in Croatia and is suspected to be wider spread than originally thought.
The outbreak has been traced by multiple countries to eggs from Poland.
Recalls are ongoing across Europe and in Hong Kong, as seven countries are reporting a total of 260 illnesses between May 1 and Oct. 12 this year. Of those cases, 112 are confirmed and 148 are listed as probable.
A joint technical report issued Thursday by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) came out as the Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong was warning consumers and foodservice operators to look for the eggs and discard them.
“The first isolates belonging to one of the (whole genome sequence) WGS clusters associated with this outbreak were identified in 2012. The number of confirmed and probable cases has increased steadily since May 2016,” according to the joint report.
“Taking into account the reporting delay, the outbreak may not have peaked yet. New cases are expected to be reported, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands where the majority of the cases were identified in the recent weeks.”
Shell eggs and unpasteurized liquid eggs are implicated. At least 10 farms and one packing center in Poland have been linked to the outbreak by traceback investigations. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has shown two clusters of illnesses, both traced to the Polish eggs.
“Outbreak cases, both confirmed and probable, have been reported by Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom,” according to the joint report issued Thursday.
“Nine of the confirmed cases are associated with a travel history to Hungary or Poland, both of which countries are also considered to be affected by this outbreak. In addition, Croatia reported a cluster of S. Enteritidis cases, including a fatal case, with an epidemiological link to the outbreak.”
The fatality in Croatia was a five-year-old child, who was one of five family members who were infected with Salmonella Enteritidis after eating eggs from Poland.
Outbreak strains on the radar since 2012
Officials across the EU have been tracking two clusters of Salmonella infections since at least February 2012, according to the ECDC and EFSA. Ebbs and surges in confirmed cases have led health and agriculture officials to think the outbreak was over more than once.
“The sampling time between the different food isolates belonging to the WGS clusters associated with this outbreak detected in the Netherlands and Norway demonstrates that products contaminated with the outbreak strain from the packing center in Poland have been distributed to different EU countries on multiple occasions in a period of at least seventeen months between May 2015 and October 2016,” according to the ECDC and EFSA joint report.
“To date, only cases from countries performing typing of S. Enteritidis isolates have been identified. Since typing is performed in a minority of countries it is likely that more countries and substantially more cases are part of this outbreak. Based on information from the WGS investigation, it is also possible that this multi-country outbreak is associated with one or more common sources persisting in the EU/EEA since at least 2012.”
Action taken in Poland
In Poland, the Local Veterinary Inspector took swabs from surfaces in the production area of the implicated packing center. The Local Veterinary Inspector also took stool samples at the 10 farms and samples of eggs originating from the farms that provide eggs to the mentioned Polish packing center.
Analyses of the samples collected at the packing center and farms was ongoing and not available for the ECDC/EFSA joint report filed Thursday.
In a separate statement, the Chief Veterinary Officer of Poland reported the administrative decision ordering the egg recall this week came after Salmonella enteritidis was found in two flocks of laying hens.
The recalled eggs have sell-by dates through November and one of the two following numbers stamped on their shells: 3PL30221321 or 3PL30221304.
Neither Polish nor European Commission authorities named the packing facility or farms implicated in the outbreak.
Warning, recall in Honk Kong
In the warning from the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong, two importers were named.
“Our investigation revealed that two Hong Kong importers, Yee Tai Trading Company and Winbo Trading International Company Limited, had imported in different batches a total of 4,730 cartons and 961 cartons of the affected eggs from Poland respectively,” according to the CFS warning.
The warning did not indicate if any probable or confirmed outbreak cases had been reported in Hong Kong.
Polish officials did not include Hong Kong in the distribution details reported to the European Commission.
Earlier this week Poland provided the following list of countries to which eggs were distributed, directly or indirectly: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania and the United Kingdom.
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