A multi-country Salmonella outbreak that has mainly sickened young people has been linked to chocolate products made by Ferrero.

Nearly 100 people are thought to be affected in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. Italy is also checking if some of its analytical results are connected to the monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak.

The UK has the most infections with 57. Those sick have sample dates between December 2021 and March 2022, with the majority confirmed between February and March.

All cases are 18 years old or under, with around 60 percent under the age of 5. There are more females than males sick. At least nine patients linked to the outbreak were hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.

Link to Ferrero product
Dr. Lesley Larkin, surveillance lead, gastrointestinal pathogens and food safety (One Health) at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We are investigating a number of cases of Salmonella that have occurred across the UK alongside the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland and in conjunction with Public Health Scotland, Public Health Wales and Public Health Agency Northern Ireland. Information gathered from those affected and microbiological data from whole genome sequencing has identified that the cases are linked.”

The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are advising consumers not to eat certain Kinder products with best before dates between July, 11 and Oct. 7, 2022. Selected batches of Kinder Surprise 20-gram and 20-gram x 3 pack are implicated and were manufactured in Belgium.

Investigations have found a link between cases of Salmonella across the UK and a product made by Ferrero.

Tina Potter, FSA head of incidents, said it was important that consumers follow the agency’s advice to avoid the risk of being ill due to Salmonella.

“We know that these particular products are popular with young children, especially as Easter approaches, so we would urge parents and guardians of children to check if any products already in their home are affected by this recall. The food business involved has voluntarily carried out this product withdrawal and recall and we are working closely with them and their competent authorities to identify the precise cause of this outbreak,” she said.

Wider EU situation
Initially, a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notification was published by the European Commission but this was later removed from public view while member states investigated the incident. It revealed France had 17 patients, Germany had six, Sweden had four, and the Netherlands had two.

Information from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had suggested a multi-country foodborne outbreak was caused by chocolate products.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the Health Service Executive (HSE) are investigating the ongoing food poisoning outbreak. Ireland has recorded 10 cases with the same strain of Salmonella responsible for the UK outbreak. A number of these involved young children, whom have recovered.

Before the link was made to Ferrero, an ECDC spokesperson told Food Safety News that the majority of cases were below 18 years old and some of them had been hospitalized. Chocolate was suspected due to findings from patient interviews.

A spokesman for INFOSAN told Food Safety News that it was part of the incident as it involved a non-EU country, which was the UK, and Salmonella in a ready-to-eat food.

“We have been informed of the Salmonella outbreak in the UK on March 27 via WHO internal channels and surveillance partners. The INFOSAN Secretariat is in the process of gathering more information on further international distribution and the source of the outbreak,” he said.

Ferrero has issued a product withdrawal and recall whilst investigations continue.

In a statement, the company said none of its Kinder products released to market have tested positive for Salmonella, and no consumer complaints have been received.

“We are working with retailers to ensure that these products are no longer available for purchase. If you have one of these products, you are advised not to consume it. We take food safety extremely seriously and we sincerely apologize for this matter.”

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