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home | News | News Headlines: 28 January - 10 Febr . . .

News Headlines: 28 January - 10 February 2012

New research sheds more light on German E. coli outbreak; International Salmonella outbreak linked to watermelon; Dried pork sausage probable cause of French Salmonella outbreak; Potential Listeria contamination prompts US egg recall; Agency announces science priorities; Salmonella case halved by EU action

New research sheds more light on German E. coli outbreak

A newly published research study has revealed more about the German outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 infection linked to sprouted fenugreek seeds last year, which affected at least 4,000 people, causing more than 50 deaths.

The study, led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, applied whole genome sequencing to E. coli O104:H4 isolates from the outbreak in Germany and a smaller French outbreak. The results showed that there were "small, but measurable, differences among the isolates."

The findings revealed that all of the strains connected with the German outbreak were almost identical, but the French strains were more diverse. The authors of the study suggest that a "bottleneck", such as a disinfection step, or passage through a single infected person, may have reduced diversity in the German outbreak. Alternately it is possible that there was a uneven distribution of diversity in the original batch of contaminated fenugreek seeds.

The study findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and can be found in full at the link below.

International Salmonella outbreak linked to watermelon

The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that it is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infection, which may be linked to consumption of watermelon.

The HPA has confirmed 30 cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (including one death), with a further 15 cases being reported in Germany, four in Ireland and four more in Scotland. Epidemiological evidence suggests that there is a link with consumption of watermelon.

In November 2011, an HPA laboratory isolated a similar strain of S. Newport from a sample of ready-to-eat sliced watermelon. The outbreak investigation is continuing and the Food Standards Agency is advising consumers to wash fruits and vegetables before consumption.

Dried pork sausage probable cause of French Salmonella outbreak

Public health officials in France have published a report on a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype 4,[5],12:i:- infection, which occurred in late 2011.

The outbreak, which affected at least 337 people across the country, occurred in November and December and followed another similar outbreak caused by the same serotype. The earlier outbreak caused illness in 682 people from August to October, but could not be linked to a single food vehicle.

The outbreak investigation identified dried pork sausage manufactured by a single producer as the most likely food vehicle involved in the outbreak, making use of data from customer loyalty cards to trace purchases at a specific supermarket chain. However, microbiological investigations at the producer's premises failed to isolate the outbreak Salmonella strain. Nevertheless, a product recall of the implicated sausage was initiated.

The full report on the outbreak is published in the online journal Eurosurveillance and can be found at the link below.

Potential Listeria contamination prompts US egg recall

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that Michael Foods is recalling specific lot dates of 'hard-cooked' eggs in brine produced at its Wakefield, Nebraska facility because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled eggs were packed in 10- and 25-pound pails and shipped under six different brand names to food manufacturers and distributors in 34 states. Lot codes from '1 LOT 1350W' to '1 LOT 2025W' are included in the recall.

A number of secondary recalls have been initiated by manufacturers of salads, sandwiches and other ready-to-eat product, which include the recalled eggs as an ingredient. Michael Foods is working with customers to help remove all affected products from sale.

Routine microbiological testing revealed the potential contamination and an investigation by the Company has identified a repair project in a packaging room as the likely source. No related illnesses have been reported to date.

Agency announces science priorities

The UK Food Standards Agency has published its Forward Evidence Plan for 2012. The Plan outlines the Agency's priorities for its science and evidence activities for the year ahead, which will include areas for research funding.

The priorities identified include microbiological food safety, focusing on Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria and norovirus, and chemical food safety, focusing on metals and organic contaminants. Other areas of interest cover meat controls, food and feed hygiene policy and food law enforcement.

The full Evidence Plan document can be found via the link below.

Salmonella case halved by EU action

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), measures introduced in the EU to cut the prevalence of Salmonella in animals and food have succeeded in reducing cases of infection in humans by nearly 50%.

EFSA reports that the reduction has been achieved over a five-year period from 2004-2009. Until 2005, salmonellosis was the most common foodborne disease in Europe with nearly 200,000 cases being reported in the EU that year.

The measures considered to have had the biggest impact on the figures are those designed to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella in egg-laying poultry flocks. Eggs have long been thought of as the most important source of human infection in the EU. EU member states are working to achieve a reduction in prevalence in laying flocks from an original 20% in some countries down to a target of 2%.

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