Three people have fallen sick in Lithuania after eating chicken contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.

The Kaunas Department of the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT Kaunas) received information from the National Public Health Center (NVSC) about three illnesses from chicken wings sold at a café.

Officials from VMVT Kaunas inspected the outlet and found several non-compliances including instances of cross-contamination, hygiene violations at the premises and by employees as well as improper waste management. Operations at the establishment were suspended.

As part of an investigation into the source of infection, VMVT inspectors took samples of surfaces, drinking water and chicken wings for microbiological analysis. Lab testing found Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter in the chicken.

Chicken from Poland

It is not known which pathogen was responsible for illness but symptoms of patients included those characteristic of an intestinal infection with nausea, diarrhea and a high temperature.

An ongoing investigation has revealed the frozen chicken wings came from Poland. Salmonella in Polish poultry has previously been identified as a problem.

Poland was the origin of 263 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications in 2021 because of Salmonella in poultry meat, which in 154 cases was notified by the country itself. 

In the United Kingdom, a series of outbreaks involving Salmonella in breaded chicken products from Poland in 2020 and 2021 affected more than 1,000 people and a number of brands.

A DG Sante audit in October 2021 found several improvements had been made in Polish poultry controls after a 2019 inspection but Salmonella contamination remained an issue.

Mock outbreak event

The real outbreak in Lithuania was announced just days after agencies in the country held a simulated outbreak response workshop.

Officials from VMVT, NVSC, the National Food and Veterinary Risk Assessment Institute (NMVRVI) and National Public Health Surveillance Laboratory (NVSPL) took part in the exercise.

More than 100 participants, some remotely, learned about the roles of different institutions in identifying and managing a mock outbreak of Salmonella. The purpose was to share information, assess readiness to perform the roles established in relevant regulations and to make suggestions to enhance investigations.

The fictitious Salmonella incident occurred in a kindergarten. Attendees discussed methods of identifying and confirming the outbreak, its publicity and inter-agency exchange of information, including at state and European levels. They talked about employee health screening and excluding sick people from work and emphasized the importance of using whole genome sequencing. Participants also shared experiences, case studies and lessons learned, to improve cooperation between the different agencies.

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