UK – The Food Standards Agency (FSA) together with the UK Health Security Agency, Public Health Scotland and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are looking into a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to fish, that has led to the death of three people in the United Kingdom.

The outbreak was first made public in April and so far, twelve patients across the UK have been identified, including three in Scotland, with onset dates of illness between October 2020 to March 2022.

Of the 12 patients, 10 are above the age of 65 and one is expectant; placing them in the high-risk category. Three of those affected who are older than 65 have died.

Six people have fallen ill since January 2022. The majority of patients reported eating smoked fish.

Despite the FSA and FSS carrying out food chain and microbiological analyses including whole genome sequencing (WGS), the cause is yet to be established. 

Listeria is of concern in chilled, ready to eat foods that do not require further cooking, such as smoked fish.

In June, Waitrose recalled 2 British Hot Smoked Rainbow Trout Fillets because Listeria monocytogenes was detected in the product. However, there is currently no evidence linking the Listeria found to any outbreak, reports Food Safety News.

Listeria is of concern in chilled, ready to eat foods that do not require further cooking, such as smoked fish.

Information for people who are pregnant has been updated to advise that they thoroughly cook smoked fish before eating it. Smoked fish has also been listed as a high-risk product which should be thoroughly cooked before being eaten by anyone in a high-risk group.

Tina Potter, FSA Head of Incidents, said the public do not need to avoid smoked fish products, but should ensure risks are reduced as much as possible.

“You can do this by keeping chilled ready-to-eat smoked fish cold at 50C (410F) or below, always using products by their use-by date, following the storage and usage instructions on the label, and cooking or reheating smoked fish until it is piping hot right through,” she said.

Listeria is a bacteria that can be found in dust, soil, animal feces, and other substances. Consumption of contaminated food could lead to listeria infection, one of the main causes of food poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The infection usually doesn’t lead to serious illness if you’re healthy, though you may feel sick for a day or two.

It is especially dangerous in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The authorities have advised the public to monitor themselves for the food poisoning symptoms during the coming weeks since it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Other Listeria recalls

Northern Tier Bakery LLC of St. Paul Park, MN, also recently recalled 905 pounds of ready-to-eat salad products while Paris Brothers Inc., of Kansas City, MO, recalled dozens of specific cheese.

In addition, Brookshire Grocery Company of Tyler, Texas, issued a voluntary recall of its bulk Yellow Flesh Peaches.

As we kicked off 2022, Dole packaged salad manufactured by Dole Food Company was also implicated in a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections.

As per the FDA, the outbreak ended in April having led to the hospitalization of sixteen people and the death of three others.

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