Two different Salmonella outbreaks have been reported in Finland with one linked to zucchini from Spain.

The first outbreak in the Finnish city of Rovaniemi affected 20 people but a source was not found. The second incident in the city of Mikkeli led to eight illnesses and was caused by contaminated chopped zucchini from Spain that was put in a salad.

Officials in Rovaniemi initially reported a suspected outbreak in early December. Onset of symptoms for the first patients began on Nov. 17.

Food served to children
The alarm was raised after three Salmonella infections were reported linked to food supplied by the central kitchen in Rovaniemi to day care centers and schools between Nov. 13 and 20. Food was delivered to more than 40 schools and kindergartens.

According to typing by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) it was found to be Salmonella Saintpaul and not the same type of bacteria that caused infections in Mikkeli. The incident was also reported to the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto).

In total, 20 people were affected from different kindergartens and schools in November and December. Salmonella was not detected in food, from environmental samples taken or in tests of foodservice employees.

Officials said the origin of the outbreak had not yet been determined from samples and interviews. All of those infected developed symptoms during the same period, suggesting the source was a single raw material consumed in mid-November. Investigation of the epidemic is continuing through interviews but no new samples will be taken.

In 2019, 200 salmonellosis cases were reported to THL in which the infection was acquired in Finland. In the past decade, the country has recorded between zero and four outbreaks per year.

Source found in second incident
The Salmonella outbreak in Mikkeli was first reported in early December with six people sick and grew to eight patients affected this month.

Initial suspicions fell on salad delivered through a wholesaler to central kitchens in Mikkeli and kitchens in Haukivuori and Ristiina, both places in Mikkeli, between Nov. 23 and 27. Product was mostly sent to schools, day care centers and the South Savo Social and Health Care Authority (ESSOTE). The salad was offered to more than 6,000 people in the Mikkeli area.

Salmonella was found in one of the food samples in the central kitchen of Mikkeli thanks to self-monitoring checks. The investigation included THL and Ruokavirasto. Salad was served in two different batches prepared on Nov. 26 and 27.

A carrot and zucchini salad was found to have Salmonella Kedougou by Ruokavirasto. Zucchini, which was an ingredient in the salad and came from Spain, also tested positive for Salmonella at a local laboratory. It arrived at the kitchens in Finland pre-chopped and product from that lot is no longer on the market.

Seven patients were confirmed to have been infected by the rare Salmonella Kedougou strain. This same type of Salmonella has also been found in two patients in the hospital districts of Satakunta and Central Finland in December.

Authorities are now evaluating processes in the kitchens and products used in them to try and prevent a repeat outbreak.

Zucchini has been removed from the menus of local central and manufacturing kitchens for the time being. However, imported products will continue to be used at times when Finnish fresh vegetables are limited.

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