EUROPE – In a joint effort, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued an alert regarding an ongoing international outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis, spanning across 14 European countries, the UK, and the United States.

The outbreak, involving 335 confirmed cases, has been linked to chicken meat and chicken meat products, particularly kebabs.

Caused by three types of S. enteritidis ST11, it has been a cause for serious concern, leading to nine hospitalizations and one tragic death in Austria.

While traceability data has pointed to producers in Poland and Austria, no definitive evidence of contamination at these facilities has been found.

Specifically, contaminated chicken kebabs have been identified as a potential common source of infection in Austria, Denmark, and Italy.

Despite extensive tracing efforts, the exact point of contamination within the chicken meat production chain remains elusive.

Scientists fear that new cases might emerge if the source is not promptly identified. EFSA and ECDC experts are urging immediate and comprehensive investigations to pinpoint the precise locations where the contamination occurred.

They stress the critical need for collaborative efforts between countries and food safety authorities to swiftly address this growing public health concern.

Researchers identified another outbreak of foodborne infection in the UK during April 2023 as a Salmonella enteritidis infection, with potential ties to imported eggs from Poland.

The research team discovered that all cases belonged to a 5-single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) cluster, which formed part of a larger, genomically diverse 10-SNP cluster observed in several countries. This genomic pattern provided vital clues for tracing the origin and spread of the infection.

Foodborne disease burden

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause approximately 1.35 million human infections and 26,500 hospitalizations in the United States every year.

Of those infections, over 23% are attributed to poultry consumption. Foodborne illness can have a devastating impact, both personally and financially, on people’s lives, the cost of which reverberates through the economy.

Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) show the total cost for foodborne Salmonella infections in the United States is a staggering U.S$4.1 billion annually and the cost for the loss of productivity to the economy is U.S$88 million.

These are real costs to real people that can and should be prevented, says USDA.

As investigations continue, consumers are advised to exercise caution, ensuring proper cooking of chicken products and thorough adherence to food safety guidelines.

Additionally, individuals experiencing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever after consuming chicken products should seek medical attention promptly.

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