Since August of this year, the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) has received an unusual number of reports of Salmonella infections traced to catering establishments and one residential care facility. These reports include fourteen clusters, totaling 144 illnesses – all due to a type of Salmonella known as Salmonella Enteritidis (PT) 14b.
Today, HPA announced that these illnesses have been traced – with the assistance of the Spanish authorities – to a single laying flock at the Spanish egg producer Granja Avícola ‘El Angel’. All eggs from the affected flock will be laid aside and heat-treated to eliminate the risk of Salmonella, and HPA has advised UK companies that purchased these eggs to either destroy or heat-treat them.
There have been numerous egg-linked Salmonella outbreaks in the past; usually due to mishandling of eggs mixtures prepared in advance at restaurants, catering establishments, or residential care facilities. Due to actions taken over the years in the UK, the incidence of Salmonella in UK domestic eggs is very low, and there have been very few egg-associated outbreaks.
The United States has lagged behind the UK in improving egg safety. FDA promulgated an Egg Safety Final Rule just this year, and the provisions have not yet gone into effect.
Approximately one egg in 20,000 in the United States is contaminated with Salmonella. That incidence may seem low, but when a catering institution pools several hundred eggs together and holds the mixture for a few hours, the risk of infection increases many-fold.
It is especially important – when eating egg-based dishes in restaurants, cafeterias, and other food service locations – to be sure that your eggs are well-cooked and, if at all possible, freshly prepared.