UK – The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are reinforcing their advice to vulnerable groups of consumers in relation to the risks of Listeria monocytogenes infection linked to ready to eat smoked fish.

The health authorities have counselled those over 65 years, pregnant or have weakened immune systems to ensure that ready to eat smoked fish is thoroughly cooked before they eat it. ‘Ready to eat smoked fish’ refers to chilled smoked fish products that would not normally be cooked at home before being eaten.

The UK is currently facing an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes which is particularly unsafe for those who are susceptible to Listeria infection.

Since 2020, the investigation has identified 14 linked cases of listeriosis, with eight of these registered since January 2022.

Cases have been identified in England and Scotland where a majority of these individuals reported eating ready to eat smoked fish. One case has been a pregnant woman, says New Food.

Listeriosis is a form of food poisoning caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.  Most people who are affected get mild gastroenteritis which subsides in a few days.

However, certain individuals are particularly at risk of severe illness such as meningitis and life-threatening sepsis.

These include those over the age of 65, those with certain underlying conditions such as cancer, liver and kidney failure or who are taking medications which can weaken the immune system.

Listeriosis in pregnancy can cause miscarriages and severe sepsis or meningitis in new-born babies.

“While the risks to the general public of becoming seriously ill due to Listeria are very low, we need people who are vulnerable – specifically those over 65, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems – to be aware of the ongoing risks of consuming ready to eat smoked fish,” said Ron McNaughton, Head of Food Crime and Incidents at FSS.

“If anyone from these groups is eating ready to eat smoked fish, we are reminding them of the advice to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked before they eat it including when served as part of a dish,” he added.

People can also further reduce the risk by keeping chilled ready to eat smoked fish cold (5⁰C or below), always using products by their use-by date, following the storage instructions on the label, and cooking it until it is piping hot right through, the authorities advised.

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