A variety of European countries have issued nearly 100 warnings about Salmonella in chilled and frozen poultry from Poland since the start of March this year.
Data from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal shows alerts from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Italy, France and Romania. Most notifications were made by Lithuania, followed by Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Involved serotypes include Enteritidis, Infantis, Typhimurium, Saintpaul, Derby, Newport, and Mbandaka. European regulation on fresh poultry mentions Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium as a food safety criterion as these serotypes represent the main risk for public health. It considers chicken contaminated with other types as compliant or that it should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The EU produced an estimated 15.2 million tons of poultry meat in 2018. The main producer in that year with 2.5 million tons was Poland.
Multiple seizures in Lithuania
Lithuanian authorities revealed that during the first five months of this year more than 100 tons of poultry meat was not allowed to be sold and nine tons of Salmonella-infected poultry was banned in the last few weeks of May. After detection of any type of Salmonella in Lithuania, the sale of products is prohibited.
The State Food and Veterinary Service’s (VMVT) inspections found that poultry meat from Poland falls into the group of high-risk products due to safety and quality discrepancies.
From early April to mid-May, VMVT assessed the safety and quality of 230 tons of poultry meat. Lab results showed that as much as 61 tons were unsafe and contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, most of which originated in Poland.
Companies that distribute such poultry meat in Lithuania are sanctioned and instructed to strengthen internal self-monitoring procedures, select manufacturers and suppliers more carefully, to audit them regularly and ensure reliability.
In May, the agency announced it had seized 6.2 tons of poultry meat in the past few weeks. The safety and quality of more than 22 tons, or 18 batches, of poultry from Lithuanian producers and imported from Poland, Romania and Hungary were assessed. Three of five non-compliant batches came from Poland with one each from Romania and Hungary.
In April, another 19 tons of poultry meat from Poland were not allowed to be put on the market. The decision was taken after lab testing found that five batches were contaminated with Salmonella. In the first week of April, VMVT inspectors stopped the sale of 25 tons, or three batches, of fresh Polish poultry meat contaminated with Salmonella. At that time, the supply of about 75 tons of poultry meat to the Lithuanian market had been banned in 2020. Of the 19 batches, 18 originated in Poland.
Bulgarian and Romanian action
DG Sante, the European Commission’s unit for policy on food safety and health, assessed Polish controls for poultry during an audit in March and April 2019. Despite revealing some problems it also found Poland was trying to tackle the high and increasing number of alerts linked to Salmonella in poultry products.
The Bulgarian Food Safety Authority revealed in April this year that it had found two shipments of more than 32,000 kilograms of frozen chicken legs from Poland contaminated with Salmonella.
Consignments were checked as part of the agency’s enhanced controls on poultry meat and by-products originating in Poland and destined for Bulgaria.
In May, the agency ordered the destruction of more than 19 tons of Polish poultry meat contaminated with Salmonella after a positive result from chilled chicken legs.
In Romania, as part of checks from the end of March to the end of April, two samples of frozen chicken breast fillets from Poland were found to be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.
The entire quantity of 21 tons, of which one ton of poultry meat was from Bihor county and 20 tons from Ilfov county, was officially detained before being destroyed.
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