More than 130 people fell sick in a Salmonella outbreak in Slovenia late this past year, authorities have revealed. Updated findings of the investigation were presented by authorities this week.

The Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection (UVHVVR) and the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said the outbreak was from the consumption of steak tartare from one company. Steak tartare includes raw ground (minced) beef.

It was previously disclosed that 19 people aged between 5 and 71 had been affected in several regions of the country and eight of them were hospitalized.

Between Nov. 12 and 26, 2022, 138 cases of Salmonella were reported, including 70 women and 68 men. The average age of patients was 33 years old. Epidemiological data showed some of the sick people said they had the contaminated steak tartare before falling ill.

Of all those ill, 94 were laboratory-confirmed and 44 were probable cases. Thirty-three people were hospitalized but no deaths were recorded.

Most sick people lived in the northeast of Slovenia such as Maribor, Celje, and Murska Sobota. Only the Nova Gorica region did not record any patients.

Salmonella Enteritidis was isolated from more than 90 stool samples, most were similar and considered to belong to the same cluster. A food sample also tested positive.

Whole genome sequencing showed human isolates were closely genetically related to four isolates from steak tartare samples, which means it was the likely source of infection.

Investigations with the company
The recent report showed that in November 2022, officials from UVHVVR carried out the first of several inspections and took samples from raw materials and finished products at Fingušt Mesnine Štajerske, the suspected company. They also checked general hygiene measures and the implementation of HACCP procedures.

Based on Salmonella positives from samples taken by the manufacturer after being informed of a problem from a retailer, the company withdrew and recalled two lots of steak tartare to prevent possible further infections.

Mesnine Štajerske was restricted from selling foods that posed a risk of Salmonella infection. Measures were lifted when safety was proven and it was shown that no employees were carrying the bacteria. The production plant has been classified as high risk, which means more frequent inspections and official sampling.

Officials found a non-compliance in the number of self-check samples taken by the business and a need for additional validation of the expiration dates for steak tartare.

The original cause of contamination with Salmonella was not identified, and after general cleaning, positive results were no longer found.

Slovenian authorities also informed the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) about the outbreak but no other countries reported related infections.

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