Rapid outbreak assessment: Multi-country Salmonella outbreak linked to chocolate products
On 12 April 2022, ECDC and EFSA published a rapid outbreak assessment on a multi-country outbreak of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium linked to chocolate products made at a factory in Arlon, Belgium.
The assessment outlines the rapid evolvement of the outbreak. Most cases are children under 10 years of age, with many being hospitalised.
ECDC continues to monitor the situation and encourages Member States to be alert for new cases and investigate human infections with strains that have multi-drug resistance profiles. Further sequencing of such isolates is recommended, and ECDC offers sequencing support for countries with limited or no genome-sequencing capacity.
In addition, ECDC further encourages public health authorities to cooperate closely with food safety authorities in the countries affected.
As of 8 April 2022, 150 cases (119 confirmed and 31 probable) have been reported in nine EU/EEA countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden) and the UK. The first case had the sampling date 21 December 2021 in the UK.
In December 2021, Salmonella Typhimurium was detected in a buttermilk tank at the Belgian establishment during the manufacturer’s own checks. The company implemented some hygiene measures and increased sampling and testing of the products and the processing environment. After negative Salmonella testing, it then distributed the chocolate products across Europe and globally.
At the end of March 2022, upon availability of sequencing data, scientists linked human cases to Belgium through advanced molecular typing techniques.
Since 2 April 2022, national competent authorities have begun to issue public health warnings. The company carried out a voluntary recall of specific products in various countries. On 8 April 2022, the food safety authority in Belgium performed official controls at the factory and withdrew the company’s authorisation for production. In addition, the company recalled all batches of products produced at the Arlon factory, regardless of their lot number or expiration date.
The recalls and withdrawals launched worldwide will reduce the risk of further infections. However, because molecular typing is not routinely performed in all countries, cases may go undetected.
ECDC and EFSA experts have concluded that further investigations are needed at the production site in Arlon, to identify the root cause, timing, and possible factors behind the contamination, including the evaluation of the possibility of the wider use of contaminated raw material in other processing plants.
Any questions related to ongoing product recalls and consumer advice should be addressed to national food safety authorities.
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