Salmonella subspecies causing multi-country outbreaks found and destroyed at Port of Felixstowe
A Salmonella subspecies responsible for infectious outbreaks across the world has been found and destroyed upon importation to Britain’s busiest container port.
Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA) discovered the mbandaka subspecies within 21,800kg of cooked chicken imported to the Port of Felixstowe before ordering its destruction.
Jose Arruga, Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) at SCPHA who discovered the Salmonella, said:
“Unlike raw chicken, all pre-cooked chicken must be completely devoid of Salmonella according to UK legislation, as consumers are not expected to cook it as thoroughly.
“We have therefore ordered the destruction of this consignment and increased our checks to root out any more instances of Salmonella mbandaka.”
Suspicions were aroused when SCPHA found Salmonella in a previous import of chicken from the same factory as part of routine checks, prompting intensified checks for all future imports of the product from the location in question.
Jose sampled the factory’s next export to Felixstowe, and although no issues was found with it physically, the sample tested positive for Salmonella mbandaka after laboratory analysis. Jose said:
“As per guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), up to 30 imports of this product from the location in question must be clear of any contamination before we can resume routine checks.
“The cause could be something as simple as contaminated equipment at the factory or a wider issue.”
196 Salmonella mbandaka infections were reported across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Czechia and Israel according to an analysis by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in November.
Of the confirmed cases, 19 people were hospitalised, five of which suffered from septicaemia. 81 cases originated in the UK alone, resulting in the death of one person. Jose added:
“Salmonella mbandaka may only cause fever, vomiting and diarrhoea for a few days in the majority of people. However, it has potential to result in serious harm for the elderly and vulnerable.”
Tina Potter, Head of Incidents at the FSA, said:
“We welcome the successful interception of the consignment of infected cooked chicken, and we commend Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority for doing so. This case highlights the importance of high-quality import checks and inspections at ports across the country.
“While Salmonella may only cause mild illness for most people, it carries a greater risk of causing severe illness for vulnerable people such as young children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. The steps taken by dedicated officers at Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority has helped keep UK consumers safe.”