The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has updated information on two outbreaks of norovirus and Salmonella.

The FSA is investigating an outbreak of norovirus with local authorities and the UKHSA (formerly Public Health England) with a link to oysters from areas in Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole, and Cornwall. Norovirus is not a notifiable disease in England.

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show 146 reports of diarrhea and vomiting have been received with the latest on Nov. 17. No information on the age range or gender of patients was released with officials saying an investigation is ongoing.

Local authority and FSA action resulted in Porthilly Shellfish and Dorset Oysters undertaking product withdrawals and recalls in November following FSA risk management advice. The suppliers ceased harvesting and are trying to find the root cause with relevant local officials.

Porthilly Shellfish oysters from Camel Estuary, Cornwall were sold at some retailers between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9. Recalled Dorset Oysters were available at certain stores from Oct. 27 to Nov. 14.

The Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland provide FSA with norovirus and biotoxin analysis to monitor food safety risks.

Salmonella outbreak
In the other incident, nearly 900 cases of Salmonella have been reported since April 2014 linked to frozen mice used to feed animals including snakes and birds.

At least 139 Salmonella Enteritidis infections have been recorded this year with children particularly affected. Mitigation measures have included retailers providing point-of-sale safety warnings beginning in September but cases continue to be recorded.

The FSA, Food Standards Scotland, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the UKHSA, Public Health Wales and Public Health Scotland are advising people not to feed pets certain batches of frozen mice.

Frozen rodents were imported from Lithuania and distributed in the UK by Monkfield Nutrition. The company recently recalled all batches of frozen feeder mice products for reptiles because Salmonella was found in the products. While the recall means there is likely to be a problem with the supply of dead rodents used as feed for snakes and other pet animals, it is believed the shortage will be short-term.

A letter has been sent by the FSA and the chief veterinary officer to the European Commission requesting steps to tackle contamination at the source. Possible future action could include emergency import measures.

Advice to the public
People should wash their hands thoroughly with warm soapy water after handling and feeding frozen mice to their pets and touching reptiles to reduce the risk of getting a Salmonella infection. Raw pet feed should be stored away from food especially ready to eat foods. Care should be taken when defrosting to avoid cross contamination and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected.

A government spokesperson said the public should be vigilant with all frozen rodent products.

“In September this year, the FSA introduced new requirements for shops to provide a leaflet warning about the risks of Salmonella and how to keep customers safe when buying and feeding frozen mice to their reptiles. However, the outbreak continues and a full withdrawal and recall of the specific batches of frozen mice is necessary,” said the spokesperson.

“If you have the affected feeder mice product in your freezer, please return it to where you purchased it from so it can be disposed of carefully and thoroughly clean and disinfect any surfaces it has been in contact with, including your hands.”

Norway has reported 13 related human Salmonella infections over three years also linked to the feeding and handling of snakes. A 2016 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) assessment revealed Denmark had three linked Salmonella cases sampled in 2014, 2015 and April 2016. Netherlands was also considered to be affected. The Lithuanian rodent farm distributed frozen feeder mice in Germany and Poland.

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