The UK’s Health Protection Agency reports that a batch of imported eggs has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis Phage Type (PT) 14b infections in England and Wales since the start of 2011.

One hundred and seventy-four (174) cases have been reported, including 77 from North West England and 35 from the West Midlands. The illnesses were traced to eggs from a single shed on one farm in Spain. The outbreak strain was recovered from samples taken from a single batch of eggs produced from that laying shed.

Spanish authorities have been alerted and have initiated measures to eliminate the risk of further contamination from the source of the outbreak.

A review of recent Food and Feed Alerts (RASFF) reveals that the implicated Spanish eggs were shipped both to the UK and to France. Specifically:

  • Reference #2011.0831: foodborne outbreak suspected (Salmonella enteritidis) to be caused by eggs from Spain; notification from France on 24/06/2011; updated 22/07/2011.
  • Reference #2011.0896: Salmonella enteritidis in eggs from Spain; notification from the United Kingdom on 05/07/2011; updated 22/07/2011.
  • Reference #2011.1009: foodborne outbreak suspected to be caused by eggs from Spain; notification from France on 26/07/2011.

Notwithstanding France’s two notifications to RASFF, I have seen no mention of any outbreak investigation or egg recall in France.

For readers experiencing a sense of déja vu, let me assure you that you are not going slightly mad. A September 2010 Press Release from the UK’s Health Protection Agency began with the following:

How international co-operation curtailed a salmonella outbreak

14 September 2010

Contaminated eggs from a single flock of hens on a Spanish farm were implicated in an upsurge in Salmonella food poisoning notifications in England and Wales over a 16 week period between September and December 2009, delegates to the Health Protection Agency’s annual conference – Health Protection 2010 – at the University of Warwick will hear.

A search of the RASFF Alert Notifications from 2009 uncovered three notices relating to these food poisonings – one from the UK (#2009.1437), and two from France (#2009.1424 and #2009.1085).

As I explained during last year’s massive egg recall in the US, each individual egg sold in the UK must be stamped with the method of production, the country of origin and the production establishment. Only producers with fewer than 50 laying hens are exempted from this mandate.

It’s fortunate that the UK Health Protection Agency has published the results of its outbreak investigation. Otherwise, how are French consumers to know that they, too, may be at risk of salmonellosis from contaminated Spanish eggs?