Two people in the Netherlands have been accused of knowingly selling eggs contaminated with Salmonella.
The case at Zwolle District Court covers events in 2017 and involves the duo, who were owner and manager of a farm at the time.
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) believes Salmonella findings were hidden for financial reasons. The defendants deny knowing about the contamination.
Link to illnesses in Germany
In June 2017, a 22-year-old man died in Germany after illness from multiple organ failure because of blood poisoning. He was suffering from a Salmonella infection caused by eating food made with contaminated eggs. Salmonella was reported as the likely cause of the blood poisoning.
Eight of 11 people who went to the barbecue in 2017 fell ill with Salmonella infections. Eggs were purchased from a supermarket in Germany and came from a Dutch farm.
In the Netherlands, recording of Salmonella on poultry farms takes place in a database. If a positive test is registered, a report is automatically sent to the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) so the agency can assess and limit the risk to public health. Poultry farmers should also contact the NVWA in the event of a positive Salmonella result.
However, an investigation found that two positive tests from the farm in question were not reported to NVWA or registered in the database. As Salmonella contamination, in June 2016, was not known, it was possible for eggs, that may have been contaminated, to be sold as table eggs for human consumption when they should only have been sold as industrial eggs, which are not for people. Table eggs can be sold at a higher price.
A Salmonella contamination incident can be costly for a poultry farm. Authorities estimated the farmer would have saved between €11,700 ($12,800) and €20,200 ($22,100) per month by not reporting it.
The defendants deny being aware of the contamination of barns but authorities insist they did know about it.
The Public Prosecution Service said the suspects were careless with the rules around Salmonella monitoring and took risks with public health for their own gain.
The agency wants the same punishment against the director and manager of the implicated farm. This would be 200 hours community service and a suspended prison sentence of six months. The company is also facing a fine of €140,000 ($153,700). The court will make its decision on May 25.
Declining European contribution
Meanwhile, Dutch poultry sector groups have decided to stop a Salmonella vaccine subsidy.
The Central Organization for Hatching Eggs and Chicks (COBK), LTO/NOP and the Dutch Poultry Farmers Union (NVP) said the decision was driven by a low contribution, which is no longer in proportion to the administrative burden.
The EU is reducing its contribution to the prevention and control of animal diseases. This means the subsidy for Salmonella vaccination is at 30 percent in 2023.
The groups said they expect that poultry farmers would continue to vaccinate after the EU subsidy has been stopped for reasons including food safety. They added the move may make vaccines slightly cheaper.
Poultry farmers were advised to seek help on which type of vaccine, both Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium or just the former, suits them best.
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