The European Commission says that no measures against Poland are envisioned “for the time being” as a Salmonella outbreak linked to eggs continues to grow. Almost 1,500 people have been sickened by Salmonella Enteritidis with a link to Polish eggs in the outbreak that has lasted more than six years and affected 18 countries.
In an update earlier this month, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that due to reporting delays, additional infections are expected with onset in recent months.
A European Commission spokeswoman told Food Safety News that the EU and its scientific agencies are helping resolve the outbreak in member states by regularly publishing risk assessment reports and offering analytical services for countries reporting cases presumably linked to the Polish flocks.
Following detection of the outbreak in 2016, the European Commission coordinated with member states a withdrawal and recall of incriminated items which involved more than 100 million eggs.
In the EU’s single market goods are one of the things that can move around the region as freely as within a single country. Poland became an EU member country in 2004.
The spokeswoman said banning the sale of eggs would not necessarily put a stop to the outbreak.
“What is important is to identify the initial source of infection and to stop it in order to get rid of the problem. There is a possibility for instance that the bacteria has entered the food chain at a higher level, such as in hatcheries. Polish authorities continue to investigate. Meanwhile, and in accordance with EU rules, Polish flocks identified positive for Salmonella enteritidis or typhimurium cannot place table eggs on the market.”
According to the National Institute of Public Health – National Institute of Hygiene in Poland the number of salmonellosis cases in the country is increasing. In 2016, an increase of 1,373 cases were recorded with the trend appearing to continue into 2017 with 410 more cases until mid-June compared to 2016.
Formaldehyde was banned as a feed additive in Europe earlier this year. It was used to kill Salmonella.
The EC spokeswoman said use of formaldehyde as a feed additive is not authorized, based on health concerns for users of the substance. It has been classified as carcinogenic by inhalation and germ cell mutagenic.
“In order to reduce microbiological contamination – including Salmonella – in feed, other feed additives may be used as alternative products, in combination with the implementation of relevant hygiene requirements and good practices along the feed chain. Specific hygiene measures are indeed provided for under the EU legislation on feed hygiene for the control, prevention and treatment of feed contaminated with Salmonella,” she said.
A Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) audit to Poland this year reported mixed findings.
Compared to government sampling results, the level of companies’ Salmonella detection in turkey fatteners and broilers was 100 times lower in 2016. For the first quarter of 2017, for breeding chickens, there were 10 positive flocks with nine detected only by government testing, which was much less frequent than food business operator (FBO) testing.
The audit team said the much lower rate of detection of FBO sampling renders it “practically ineffective” to find Salmonella.
However, the audit found the Salmonella National Control Programmes (SNCPs) were generally in line with EU requirements and correct restrictive measures were imposed and/or taken by farmers when needed.
“The European Commission set up a task force in 2017 and sent an audit mission in Poland to support the Polish competent authorities to address the shortcomings identified and to provide assistance in an outbreak investigation. Progress was noted following this audit. Another audit was carried out in 2018,” said the EC spokeswoman.
“The priority for the Commission is that Polish authorities implement correctly the recommendations of the two previous audits and take corrective measures to address non-compliances identified. Based on the documents regularly transmitted by Polish authorities, the Commission will consider if there is a need to send a new audit to Poland in the near future.”
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)