French authorities are investigating almost 50 Salmonella infections linked to eating raw or undercooked horse meat in the past few months.
During this summer, Sante publique France identified 20 patients that are part of a cluster of Salmonella Newport cases.
A total of 28 other people were linked to a second cluster of salmonellosis caused by a different serotype known as monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium (1, 4, , 12:i:-) .
Link made by patient interviews
In France, there is a tradition of consuming raw or rare horse meat, especially in the form of minced (ground) meat, according to the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) and Directorate General for Health (DGS).
However, consumption of horse meat has decreased significantly in France in recent decades.
Surveys of patients enabled health authorities to identify the role in illness of horse meat, consumed raw or undercooked, in particular in the form of ground meat.
Outlets mentioned by interviewed patients were informed of the issue and reminded of good hygiene practices for preparing ground meat.
Authorities of some identified horse meat producing countries have also been informed so they can carry out checks. Horse meat is mainly imported from Italy, Romania, Poland, the United States or South America but there is some domestic production.
Health authorities said it was important, especially during hot weather, to respect the cold chain, particularly by consumers after purchase, and to consume meat quickly, ideally the same day as purchase.
Places were meat is chopped after a request by consumers, such as butchers, were advised to remain vigilant on the sanitary quality of supplies as well as meat sold by carrying out regular bacteriological checks.
A Salmonella Bovismorbificans outbreak linked to horse meat from Romania via Belgium sickened 25 in France in 2019 with nine people needing hospital treatment.
It was the latest in a string of illnesses linked to consumption of horse meat in recent years. Other outbreaks in 2003, 2006 and 2010 involved Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Meleagridis and Salmonella Typhimurium.
In 2018, a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak in France was suspected to be caused by chilled horse meat from Belgium, processed in Romania, with raw material from Hungary.
About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has eaten any horse meat and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.
Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.
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