Salmonella under the Microscope

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recently published their findings on trends relating to zoonoses in which it stated that nearly a third of all foodborne outbreaks reported in the EU in 2018 were caused by Salmonella.

The good news is that the overall incidences of salmonellosis the illness caused by Salmonella in Ireland remains low compared to other parts of Europe.  2018 was the very first year that the numbers of salmonellosis reported in Ireland associated to travel exceeded the number of domestically acquired cases.

67% of the 1,581 Salmonella outbreaks reported in the EU in 2018 were related to the countries Slovakia, Spain and Poland. These outbreaks were mainly associated with eggs.

Symptoms of Salmonella typically present itself as abdominal pain, nausea, headache, diarrhoea and from time to time vomiting. It is nearly always accompanied by a high temperature.

It is most commonly found in the intestinal tract of domestic and wild animals and birds which may result in a variety of foodstuffs of both animal and plant origin becoming contaminated with faecal organisms either directly or indirectly. Most frequently it is associated with food types such as eggs and raw meat from pigs, turkeys and chickens.

Food safety precautionary measures within the food industry are key to reducing cases of Salmonellosis as food handlers can also be a source of contamination for foodstuffs. The organism Salmonella can be transmitted directly or indirectly via an infected food handler or faecally contaminated environments. It is vital that all food handlers receive adequate food safety training in the areas of personal hygiene, cross contamination prevention and correct hand washing practices. Food handlers and food business operators must be very aware and be trained in their responsibilities relating to fitness to work.  This is also further compounded when we know that Salmonella has a high outbreak potential if transmitted through food.

According to Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in Ireland 363 salmonellosis cases were notified in 2018. Interestingly over 50% of these cases were associated with international travel and most cases which were diagnosed in Ireland were genetically unrelated to one another. A large amount of the sporadic cases investigated in Ireland could be recognised as part of larger EU incidents. 

In EFSA’s report their chief scientist Marta Hugas stated “The number of reported outbreaks suggests that there’s room for raising awareness among consumers as many foodborne illnesses are preventable by improving hygiene measures when handling and preparing food”.

Food hygiene training and re-education is extremely necessary for food handlers in the controlling of Salmonella. Book an upcoming Food Hygiene Course/HACCP training course or contact an EHAI approved trainer at https://ehai.ie/courses/about/.