From May to December, ten countries have reported 183 confirmed and 246 probable Salmonella enteritidis cases with a link to Fermy Drobiu Woźniak (Wozniak Poultry Farms).
The last update had the count at 152 confirmed and 216 probable cases from the Polish egg packing centre, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The number of confirmed and probable cases peaked in October when the source of infection was identified in the large egg packing centre and control measures were put in place.
Although new cases per week decreased since October, about 15 were reported in each week of November.
No confirmed cases linked to us - Fermy Drobiu Woźniak
Fermy Drobiu Woźniak said the Czech Republic has terminated a contract and started to work with the Netherlands in connection with the RASFF alert, for which Polish eggs from the firm were notified as a relatively dangerous product.
“Detailed inspections at all production stages have been carried at Woźniak farms for the past month,” the firm told FoodQualityNews.
“To perform the inspections, specialized research centres and sanitary and veterinary services have been contacted. Product tests ordered by the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate and environmental studies ordered by the veterinary services have been conducted.
“In addition, detailed control measures have been taken for feeds, breeding farms, egg packing facilities, transport and sale of eggs. All locations are being carefully checked in order to rule out and eliminate even the slightest probability of Salmonella occurrence.”
Fermy Drobiu Woźniak said no confirmed cases of illness caused by eating eggs from it has been found but in mid-November it took the decision to withhold deliveries to retail outlets.
“It should be noted that our hotline received only one illness report throughout a month of operation. However, after the case was examined it turned out that it concerned eggs which had not come from Wozniak Poultry Farms.
“As a result of the dynamic growth of production in Wozniak farms in 2015, the company started exporting larger quantities of eggs to the European Union and competing strongly with egg producers on that market. The outbreak of the RASFF alert gave a start to a slow elimination of the company from the EU market.”
Outbreak cases come from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK, according to the ECDC.
Sixteen confirmed cases are associated with a travel history to Austria (1), Cyprus (1), Greece (1), Hungary (3), Italy (1), Poland (8) or Portugal (1).
Germany and Italy are also reporting an increase in S. Enteritidis and WGS is ongoing in Italy.
Another assessment by ECDC and EFSA will be done in January next year.
The outbreak of S. Enteritidis phage type (PT) 8 has multiple locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) profiles 2-9-7-3-2 and 2-9-6-3-2. Based on WGS, isolates are part of two distinct but related genetic clusters.
ECDC and EFSA said contaminated products could have been distributed between May 2015 and October 2016. It is also possible the outbreak is associated with one or more sources persisting since at least 2012.
Croatian MEPs pose questions
Croatia reported a cluster of S. Enteritidis cases, including the death of a five year old child, with an epidemiological link to the outbreak. The characterisation of isolates is ongoing.
Marijana Petir, Croatian member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the European People's Party (EPP), raised the point in a written question to the EU Commission last month.
She said S. enteritidis was found in imported meat sold by a number of retail chains in Croatia - chicken breasts imported from Poland, duck breasts from Hungary, chicken thighs produced in Poland and turkey burgers with rosemary from Italy.
“Retail chains continually buy up low-priced food to sell to consumers which is of manifestly inferior quality and a danger to health.
“It is particularly worrying that consumers will not necessarily have been warned that there might be Salmonella in products that have just been taken off the shelves because they are past their best-before date.
“Will the EU strengthen the meat inspection programme, and is it considered necessary to improve the existing EU legislation on checks for salmonella and other given agents that cause foodborne zoonoses?
“Will the Commission widen the existing meat labelling regulations to encompass the obligation of fully informing consumers about the meat production cycle, including indication of the date of slaughter, so as to prevent them from being misled?”
The Commission must respond within six weeks.
Biljana Borzan, Croatian MEP from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, had earlier asked if food safety is being endangered by the free flow of goods on the single market.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said Member States can introduce stricter standards provided they are in accordance with Directive (EU) 2015/1535, receive agreement of the Commission and other Member States and the principle of free movement of goods is respected.
Andriukaitis said regulation (EC) 2160/2003 sets targets for reduction of Salmonella in poultry flocks.
“To achieve these targets, Member States must establish national control programmes, providing a high degree of flexibility to address specific situations in the Member States. These national control programmes must be approved by the Commission. In the case of Croatia, this took place at its accession on 1 July 2013.”