EUROPEAN health authorities are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis ST11 that has caused illness across the continent and in the UK.

In September 2021, France reported an increase in S. Enteritis ST11 cases, and by 11 January this year, 272 cases had been reported in Europe and the UK.

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Two deaths were recorded in adult men, 25 cases were hospitalised, and sixty of the cases who were interviewed reported the consumption of eggs or egg products.

Some of the cases reported in France in 2021 had visited restaurants serving eggs distributed by a common supplier, described as “Spanish packing centre A”.

“The eggs had originated from three Spanish farms, one of which had tested positive for the outbreak strain,” said a joint European investigation into the outbreak.

“Fresh table eggs from the farms linked to the outbreak were withdrawn and redirected for use in heat-treated egg products.

“No other countries received eggs from the same farms via Packing Centre A during summer 2021.

“Therefore, the source of infection for cases in late 2021 and in countries other than Spain and France could not be established.”

Microbiologically linked

This 2021 outbreak is linked microbiologically to a historical cross-border outbreak reported by the Netherlands in 2019.

“Eggs consumed by cases in the Dutch outbreak were traced back to a Spanish farm, but it was not possible to identify an epidemiological link with the 2021 outbreak.

“This suggests a wide distribution of the outbreak strain that could affect the food supply chain and/or earlier steps in the production chain.

“There may be multiple heterogeneous sources of S. Enteritidis ST11, and the outbreak strain could also be circulating at other farms, inside or outside Spain.

“The risk of new infections caused by the outbreak strain and contaminated eggs remains high in the EU/EEA.”

“It is therefore important to foster cross-sectoral investigations of contaminations in the egg supply chain in countries where S. Enteritidis ST11 has been detected.”