Authorities in Finland are investigating a recent increase in Salmonella Enteritidis infections.

The Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) and the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) reported that 50 people have become ill from across the country during August and September.

In 2022, only five domestically acquired Salmonella Enteritidis infections were recorded in the same period.

Of 18 patient samples studied so far, half of the strains are similar. Eleven patient interviews have also been conducted.

THL is conducting a survey of salmonellosis patients in August and September to find out the extent and source of the epidemic. The agency will also continue typing Salmonella Enteritidis strains.

The role of Ruokavirasto and local food control authorities involves tracing potential food sources based on the information revealed in interviews.

The number of Salmonella cases in Finland has decreased in the past ten years. In 2022, 666 infections were reported.

Ruokavirasto and THL are also investigating a large outbreak linked to school meals. 812 people fell ill from 18 different schools, but the source has not yet been found.

Helsinki control action
Meanwhile, officials in Helsinki conducted a sampling project from 2022 to 2023, which involved analyzing the microbiological quality of hamburger or baguette toppings at fast food outlets and the cleanliness of restaurant surfaces.

In total, 42 raw minced (ground) meat patties and 143 chopped vegetable samples were collected. Another 14 samples were taken because of poor results. They were examined for spoilage and pathogenic bacteria. 282 samples were collected from kitchen surfaces for microbiological tests to determine the cleanliness of equipment and fixtures.

Most vegetables arrive at restaurants already chopped, which means the main factors affecting their quality are the onsite storage temperature and time of use. Results indicated that vegetable storage temperatures were in order and used quickly once packs had been opened. Regarding microbiological quality, 67 percent of chopped vegetable samples were good, 29 percent were passable, and 4 percent were poor. No pathogens were found.

For microbiological quality, 69 percent of minced (ground) meat patty samples were good, 24 percent were passable, and 7 percent were poor. Salmonella was found in two and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in 11 samples. All Salmonella and STEC positives occurred in patties of foreign origin. Only 4 percent of the surface cleanliness samples were found to be poor.

Serotypes were Salmonella Dublin and Salmonella Typhimurium. Products came from the same factory in Italy. Salmonella-contaminated batches were withdrawn from the market. STEC-positive products came from Austria, Poland, and Italy.

Listeria monocytogenes was found in 13 of 35 food samples but at very low levels.

“Many people across all age groups eat at fast food restaurants daily–including children, elderly people, and other at-risk persons. It is, therefore, important to ensure that meals prepared at restaurants do not contain significant quantities of pathogenic microbes. The importers of minced (ground) meat patties need to take self-monitoring samples for Salmonella tests and, if Salmonella is found, intensify the testing of the patties from the manufacturer in question. Even though the legislation does not require testing raw meat for STEC bacteria, regular tests are recommended,” according to the report.

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