Food agencies in the United Kingdom have again voiced concern about Salmonella in poultry and egg products from Poland.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told consumers to take care when handling and cooking chicken, turkey and duck products at home.

There have been more than 200 cases of salmonellosis this year caused by different strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to poultry products such as meat and eggs from Poland. 

Past poultry problems

FSA is in discussions with officials in Poland and the EU to ensure steps are taken to improve the safety of Polish poultry and eggs. In 2022, 190 Salmonella notifications on the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) concerned poultry meat products from Poland.

In 2020, several outbreaks in the UK were caused by frozen breaded chicken from Poland. After enhanced control measures were applied in 2021, the situation improved. However, in 2023, six outbreaks linked to chilled poultry and egg products from Poland have been investigated by UKHSA.

Chicken meat products are also the likely source of a multi-country outbreak caused by three types of Salmonella Enteritidis. Food traceability data mainly points to producers in Poland, but no microbiological evidence of contamination at their facilities has been found. Between January and October 2023, 14 EU countries, the UK, and the U.S. have reported 335 cases.

FSA advice includes washing hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry products, never washing raw poultry, and using or freezing products by their use-by date.

“Cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will kill any harmful bacteria. At the same time, make sure that any surfaces and equipment that come into contact with food are clean to avoid risks from cross contamination and always wash your hands before and after handling food,” said Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA.

“A number of the cases have involved the consumption of eggs produced in Poland and used in meals in restaurants and cafes. We are therefore asking local authorities to remind food businesses about the importance of good hygiene practices.”

Industry use of eggs

Inadequate cooking and cross-contamination in the kitchen during food preparation can lead to salmonellosis. The bacteria can also spread from person to person. 

While consumers can help reduce the risk of getting sick from poultry products sold at retail, outbreaks linked to eggs have mainly been traced to food service businesses. 

British Lion Eggs called on food manufacturers, retailers, caterers, and consumers to use British eggs.

Gary Ford, British Egg Industry Council deputy chief executive, said: “There have been ongoing food safety issues with non-UK eggs for years. Once you move away from the comprehensive food safety controls offered by the British Lion Code of Practice, businesses that choose to use imported eggs not only gamble with the health of their customers but also put their hard-earned reputations on the line.

“We strongly urge responsible businesses to source British Lion eggs, clearly marked with the little red lion on the packaging and the shell, to ensure that they sell and serve safe eggs.”

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