Nearly 200 people in eight European countries and the United Kingdom are involved in a Salmonella outbreak ongoing since May 2018.
Salmonella Enteritidis infections have been linked to frozen breaded chicken products from Poland with the most recent illness in the UK in December 2020.
Denmark has two infections, Finland has four, France has 33, Germany has six, Ireland has 12, the Netherlands has three, Poland has five, Sweden has six, and the United Kingdom has 122. One probable case was reported in Canada in 2019 but that person had travelled to Europe during the exposure period.
Mainly children ill
One in five people have been hospitalized and an 86-year-old woman died in France. Half of those sick are children younger than 18 years old. Three-fourths of patients are younger than 45 years old.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment only covers one Salmonella Enteritidis sequence type. DG SANTE sent EFSA a request for the work on Oct. 30, 2020. It was originally planned to be published at the end of January but was postponed for one month because of the “multiple and complex” details with validation taking longer than anticipated.
Since January 2020, officials in the UK have recorded 480 salmonellosis patients infected by two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to frozen, raw, breaded chicken products.
In June 2020, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Public Health Scotland reported a cluster of 65 Salmonella Enteritidis cases, with sample dates ranging from September 2018 to May 2020. Patients were nationally distributed; 54 percent were male and the age range was a few months to 87 years old.
In 2018, eight infections were reported in the UK and nine in France. In 2019, the number increased to 45, involving six countries. Patient numbers peaked in 2020, with 131 reported by eight countries, according to the EFSA and ECDC assessment.
Among 74 patients interviewed in six countries, 64 reported consumption of chicken in some form including in restaurants, at home and at school during the week before illness. Chicken was eaten freshly-made, as breaded products, in the form of burgers, kebabs, salads and sandwiches. Specific types mentioned include nuggets, goujons, Kiev, drumsticks, thighs, wings, breast fillets, poppers, and skewers.
Product testing findings
During investigations in Germany, France and the UK, isolates of Salmonella Enteritidis matching the outbreak strain were detected. They were identified in poultry products sampled in 2018 and 2020. These items were not ready-to-eat (RTE) and were intended to be cooked prior to consumption.
Five batches of non-RTE poultry products tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis matching the outbreak strain. Three of these were manufactured by a Polish processing company where Salmonella Enteritidis was not detected in products or the environment. The five positive batches were traced back to different meat suppliers, slaughterhouses, and farms in Poland. Some of these farms had positives for Salmonella Enteritidis in 2020.
As part of investigations in the UK, different Salmonella Enteritidis strains behind other outbreaks have been isolated in poultry products traced back to the Polish processing company. Other Salmonella serotypes such as Infantis, Newport and Livingstone, as well as Campylobacter, have also been isolated in chicken from this firm. The company has introduced full thermal treatment of poultry products.
As the implicated products are frozen and have a long shelf-life plus a lack of identification of the origin of contamination, there is a risk that new infections may emerge with the outbreak strain, said EFSA and ECDC.
“Given that several Salmonella Enteritidis strains other than the outbreak strain and other Salmonella serotypes have been identified in the tested chicken products, these may constitute a recurrent risk for human Salmonella infections in Europe and the UK. The risk of infection is reduced at consumer level if the food label instructions regarding cooking (thermal treatment) and expiry dates are followed properly.”