Deadly Listeria outbreak linked to Scottish fish processor

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A deadly Listeria outbreak in the UK has been linked to a company, but product testing has revealed only low levels of contamination.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suspect the source of contamination is a smoked salmon processing plant in Scotland.

Food Standards Scotland did not name the company or respond to questions about the incident of Food Safety News.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “This is an ongoing outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes and, to date, no definitive source of contamination has been found. Investigations to determine the root cause Investigations of any foodborne illness outbreak will include both patient questionnaires and product samples.

“Local authorities are tasked with working on mitigation measures with all businesses involved, and the FSS, alongside partners from the UK Health Safety Agency, Public Health Scotland and the Food Standards Agency, have been involved in raising consumer awareness of the epidemic, most recently with targeted messages to vulnerable groups.

There have been 14 confirmed cases of Listeria monocytogenes in just under two years. At least 10 sick people are over 65 and one was a pregnant woman.

Three people over the age of 65 died and for two Listeria monocytogenes was a contributing cause of death. All cases had underlying health conditions.

Of the listeriosis-linked cases since October 2020, eight have been identified since January 2022. The majority of them reported consuming ready-to-eat smoked fish.

difficult incident

The products sold by the unnamed implicated company were all within the maximum permitted level set by the legislation.

The limit of 100 Colony Forming Units per gram (CFU/g) applies to food placed on the market, during the shelf life of the product.

Companies that produce foods that can support the growth of Listeria must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the authorities that the product will not exceed 100 CFU/g over the entire shelf life. Or, they must prove the absence of 25 grams before the food has left their control.

“Food legislation is drafted on the basis of reducing risk wherever possible. This does not equate to an absence of risk, but to an acceptance that the residual risk will remain. Listeria is ubiquitous in the environment and no step in the production of cold smoked salmon can eradicate the organism. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to reduce the risk to zero,” Food Standards Scotland said.

Controls focus on good hygienic practices to minimize the risk of contamination and to ensure that the shelf life does not allow the pathogen to reach levels capable of causing illness. However, epidemiological data has shown that doses as low as 8 CFU/g can cause illness in susceptible consumers susceptible to foodborne illness.

As the product complies with microbiological regulatory limits but still poses a significant risk to vulnerable consumers, authorities said it was essential that interventions ensure effective enforcement of food safety controls as well as public health messaging. that allow people to understand the risks.

The advice for people over 65, pregnant or with weakened immune systems is to cook ready-to-eat smoked fish thoroughly before eating. The warning covers chilled smoked fish products that would not normally be cooked at home before consumption.

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