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Irish officials search for the source of the Salmonella outbreak

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Health officials in the Republic of Ireland are investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 20 people.

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases associated with the epidemic is 26 and people fell ill between Nov. 30 and Dec. 25, 2022.

Patients range in age from 10 to 91 years old; 14 are male and 12 are female, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak was identified through routine whole genome sequencing.

The outbreak control team includes the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), regional departments of public health, HSE environmental health officers, the National Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria Reference Laboratory, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and the Marine (DAFM), and colleagues from Northern Ireland.

The source of the infection remains under investigation. Officials would not say if the outbreak was linked to a recall of raw chicken products in late January.

Western Brand recalled batches of raw chicken because of the detection of Salmonella Typhimurium. They were sold at retailers including Aldi, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Lidl as well as being distributed to Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.

Products were sold as fresh and are past their use-by date, however, they are suitable for freezing. Consumers were advised not to eat the affected batches if they have them in their freezers. 

In late 2022, the FSAI started a survey on the microbiological quality of chilled and frozen coated poultry meat preparations and poultry meat products intended to be eaten cooked and tested for Salmonella.

DAFM has revealed eight recent instances of poultry flocks testing positive for Salmonella Typhimurium.  

Rise in enforcement work
Meanwhile, almost 80 notices were served to businesses for breaches of food safety legislation in 2022, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The 77 enforcement orders are up from 59 in 2021. The increase follows almost a full year of normal business operations after the remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in early 2022. 

Overall, 65 closure orders and 12 prohibition orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive, officials from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, and officers of the FSAI.

Recurring issues included improper storage of food with risk of possible contamination; a lack of pest control procedures; monitoring and pest proofing; a lack of proper temperature control in the storage; preparation and distribution of food and inadequate staff training in relation to food safety, personal hygiene; and recordkeeping.

FSAI urged businesses to adhere to food safety legislation, appropriately train staff to produce, serve and sell safe food and ensure premises are adequately pest proofed.

Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said it was disappointing that month after month, inspectors found similar, basic, and fundamental breaches of food law.

“Through the hard work of our partner agencies and food inspectors in 2022, food businesses that disregarded the law and put consumer health at risk were stopped. However, this should not be happening. Enforcement orders are served on food businesses only when a risk to consumer health has been identified or where there are a number of ongoing breaches of food legislation. Food businesses should not be falling short of their legal requirements. They should adhere to food safety regulations at all times,” she said.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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