More information has been shared by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) about Salmonella in poultry meat and eggs from Poland.
There have been 200 cases of salmonellosis this year in the United Kingdom caused by different strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to such products.
FSA has investigated more than 90 incidents in the past two years, with two outbreaks linked to eggs and three to poultry meat from Poland this year.
The FSA, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently told consumers to take care when handling and cooking chicken, turkey, and duck products at home. Catering sites are using the majority of imported eggs.
Repeated problems frustrate FSA
Emily Miles, FSA chief executive, and Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinary officer, wrote a letter to the European Commission and the chief veterinary officer in Poland to flag the rise in cases involving Polish poultry and eggs. Information on the number of establishments involved was shared with Polish authorities.
“Each time we have detected a specific food safety concern we have acted promptly to keep consumers safe, but we are unhappy about the repeated occurrences,” said Miles.
An incident management group has been created to coordinate activities across government departments, including Defra and UKHSA, to move efforts from responding on a case-by-case basis to a more holistic approach.
FSA said the Poland problem comes when it is experiencing an unexpected spike in other incidents and outbreaks.
As part of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), pre-notifications would be required for EU commodities beginning at the end of January. Physical checks are planned beginning in April. However, it is possible to use existing regulations to do additional controls earlier if necessary.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) wants to see authorities checking every load from Poland and rejecting those not meeting requirements.
Richard Griffiths, BPC chief executive, said: “We have long established and rigorous processes to deal with Salmonella, and we follow these to the letter to produce food people trust and value. It is disappointing that Poland cannot do the same and is willing to export its hygiene problems instead of dealing with them.”
The UK Office for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Trade Assurance is undertaking an audit of Poland in April 2024 to evaluate the controls in place.
In November, the UK hosted the annual Trade Specialised Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures under the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement. FSA requested discussions on improving cooperation and information sharing on food safety incidents. Talks are expected to be held in early 2024.
E. coli outbreak due to animal contact
Meanwhile, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) was part of a team investigating a Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) human outbreak that was epidemiologically linked to an animal-contact visitor attraction.
In a report covering activities from July to September, the agency said STEC O157 and STEC O26 were behind the outbreak.
Environmental sampling at the premises detected STEC O26 in a children’s play area; other areas were also positive for STEC. E. coli was confirmed in all 32 samples of animal feces taken. Although some STECs were detected, they were not O157 or O26.
The site closed voluntarily after being told of human illnesses. Local authority and APHA visits identified deficiencies in compliance with the relevant industry code of practice. The most common issues at animal contact attractions include suboptimal handwashing facilities, poor supervision of animal contact, contamination of walkways with soiled animal bedding or feces, and unclear marking of animal contact versus non-contact areas.
Work at the premises to rectify deficiencies improved the situation before a phased reopening.
APHA also said there were no cryptosporidiosis investigations during the third quarter of 2023.
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