A food poisoning incident has affected several dozen students at three colleges and a high school in and around Poitiers (see Salmonella, Steaks hachés et Tiac en France).
No information has been released as to the precise number of ill and/or hospitalized students. The only official communiqué from Vienne Préfecture gives neither data nor dates. In addition, this release only mentions two establishments. According to Agence France Presse, the students became ill between October 19th and 22nd, 2010.
“At first, we thought there were only 10-12 cases,” said Stéphane Jarlégand (Director of the Office of the Vienne Préfect), during a news conference. “On Tuesday, there were 52 cases, and today about 100.”
The first alarm was sounded by an emergency medicine practitioner in Poitiers, after eight people from the same school arrived at the university hospital’s emergency room, all with the same complaint. A regional health investigation team was activated in response to the alert.
By coincidence, this week’s issue of Eurosurveillance contained a report concerning the investigation into a foodborne Salmonella outbreak in the Netherlands that was linked to the consumption of raw meat products.
“Between October and December 2009, 23 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium (Dutch) phage type 132, each with an identical multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) profile (02-20-08-11-212), were reported from across the Netherlands. A case–control study was conducted using the food-consumption component of responses to a routine population-based survey as a control group. The mean age of cases was 17 years (median: 10 years, range: 1–68). Sixteen cases were aged 16 years or under. Raw or undercooked beef products were identified as the probable source of infection. Consumers, in particular parents of young children, should be reminded of the potential danger of eating raw or undercooked meat.”
“This is the fourth food-borne outbreak in recent years linked to consumption of steak tartare and other raw beef products in the Netherlands [10-12]. In 2006 to 2008, despite intensive monitoring and control programmes, Salmonella was still found in-store in raw meats (such as steak tartare and ossenworst) intended for direct consumption . Consumer awareness of the potential hazard of eating raw meat is central to good control. In particular, parents should be reminded that children are vulnerable to Salmonella infection and should not eat products containing raw or undercooked meat.”
The above caution was directed to parents, while the Vienne outbreak involves food service establishments. Even so, it’s worth remembering that this same point was made in the article “Why ‘just cook it’ won’t cut it.”
Clearly, for those who enjoy steak tartare – and I am one of them – Belgium’s AFSCA offers an excellent recipe on page 6 of its Bulletin de l’agence alimentaire fédérale (Bulletin no. 35, December 2009).
About Albert Amgar: Albert Amgar lives in Changé near Laval in Mayenne, France. He worked as young scientist at the Parasitology and Tropical Medicine Service of the Pitié Salpétrière Hospital and later spent 12 years in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1989, he became director of a new association of agro-food industrialists named ASEPT in Laval (France). He was the general manager of ASEPT until his retirement.