Two people have died after eating raw or undercooked horse meat, according to French public health officials.

Santé publique France has provided more details on two outbreaks linked to consumption of horse meat in summer and autumn. French authorities revealed the illnesses earlier this month.

The first epidemic with 20 patients sick because of Salmonella Newport was detected by the National Reference Center for Salmonella at the Institut Pasteur in August this year.

Strains were isolated from patients between July 4 and Aug. 22. The patients lived in seven different regions with the Hauts de France area having the most cases with eight. There were 12 men and eight women aged 19 to 94 years old. Nine patients were hospitalized and two deaths reported.

Second incident
A second outbreak due to monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium (1, 4, [5], 12:i:-) was detected in early autumn.

So far, 33 patients have been reported. Salmonella strains were isolated between July 31 and Sept. 11. Patients are aged 2 to 84 years old with 15 males and 18 females.

Of the 23 cases questioned, three were hospitalized but no deaths were reported. The 33 patients live in four different regions with the Hauts de France area having the most cases with 25.

For the two outbreaks, before onset of symptoms, almost all people had eaten raw, undercooked or rare horse meat, some in the form of minced (ground) meat that was bought from markets or in horse butcher shops.

Imported meat suspected
The Directorate General for Food (DGAL) carried out traceability surveys of horse meat consumed by patients. While they found it was imported they could not determine the exact origin with certainty. Horse meat is mainly imported from Italy, Romania, Poland, the United States or South America.

Outlets visited by the patients interviewed were informed and reminded of good hygienic practices for preparing ground meat. Authorities of some of the identified horse meat producing countries have also been told so they can carry out checks.

French authorities said it was important, especially during hot weather, to respect the cold chain, particularly by consumers after purchase, and to consume meat quickly. Places were meat is chopped after a request by customers, such as butchers, were advised to remain vigilant on sanitary quality of supplies as well as meat sold by carrying out regular checks for bacteria.

In France, there is a tradition of consuming raw or rare horse meat, especially in the form of ground meat, according to the Directorate General for Food and Directorate General for Health (DGS), but consumption has decreased significantly in recent decades.

A Salmonella Bovismorbificans outbreak linked to horse meat from Romania via Belgium sickened 25 in France in 2019 with nine people needing hospital treatment. 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.

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