An outbreak of Salmonella that has sickened at least 350 people has been linked to eggs produced in Southern Germany.
France has reported 45 cases and Austria 31 in June and July, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s latest Communicable Disease Threats Report.
Germany has seen 14 cases and Luxembourg just one that are potentially linked to the same outbreak.
ECDC said investigations are ongoing regarding the potentially linked cases and an outbreak assessment will be available shortly.
Total reported numbers have grown from 158 on 15 August to 247 last week, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The additional cases are not infections from the last seven days, but historical cases reported during that week.
The agency said there is evidence to indicate that cases in Europe with the same strains of Salmonella infection were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source.
Hampshire has reported 99 cases, London 30 cases, Cheshire and Merseyside – 39 cases and West Midlands – 54 cases.
Low public health risk
Dr Paul Cleary, consultant epidemiologist at PHE, said the decline in Salmonella case reporting in the week with other elements of the investigation reassures them that the risk to public health is low.
“There is now evidence to indicate that cases in Europe with the same strains of Salmonella infection were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source,” he said.
“This egg supply also reached distributors and food outlets in England, but at this stage we cannot conclusively demonstrate this is the infection source in this country.
“We are continuing to work with the Food Standards Agency and public health organisations in Europe but, importantly, the decline in Salmonella case reporting this week alongside other elements of our investigations reassures us that the current risk to public health is low.”
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued advice to caterers after ‘strong circumstantial evidence’ suggesting that eggs used in catering establishments may be linked to the outbreak.
It instructed caterers not to use damaged or dirty eggs, keep them away from other foods, when they are still in the shell and when cracked open, cook eggs and foods containing them thoroughly and use pasteurised egg for raw or lightly cooked foods.
BEIC: Look for the British Lion mark
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) urged caterers and consumers to look for the British Lion mark in the wake of the outbreak.
Salmonella enteritidis PT14b has not been found in UK eggs and has previously been linked to outbreaks in the UK from imported eggs.
The British Lion Code of Practice has effectively eliminated salmonella from British eggs, but a significant amount of imported eggs are still being bought by some wholesalers and caterers.
Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said it was ‘unbelievable’ that British consumers are still being put at risk by imported eggs.
“The British egg industry, through the Lion mark, has invested heavily in ensuring that the eggs we sell to consumers are safe, yet we are constantly undermined by eggs that come into the country which are not fit to eat.
“Caterers should be using due diligence and ensuring that they only serve eggs which conform to Lion standards.”