Healthy living

Salmonella outbreak linked to bean sprouts

Salmonella outbreak linked to bean sprouts Cases in Scotland, England and Wales

The UK Health Protection Agency is warning people and the catering industry to wash and cook raw bean sprouts, as they have been linked to more than 100 cases of food poisoning.

The Agency says that all raw bean sprouts should be washed and thoroughly cooked before they are eaten, unless they are clearly labelled as ready to eat.

Since the beginning of August this year, 106 cases of food poisoning caused by Salmonella bareilly have been reported to the Agency, the majority occurring in England. Normally, fewer than 10 cases of S. Bareilly food poisoning are seen by the Agency in a typical month.

The same food poisoning bacteria are also behind 19 cases of food poisoning in Scotland, indicating a common source of infection, said the Agency.

Professor Qutub Syed from the HPA Outbreak Control Team that is investigating the cases said: “Questioning people with confirmed Salmonella bareilly infection produced some evidence of a link with bean sprouts and we have now isolated Salmonella from a bean sprout sample.

"Although we won’t know for a few days if it is the same strain of Salmonella as in the human cases, it is an important development in the investigation.

“It is also important for people who prepare meals in catering establishments and in the home to keep raw bean sprouts separate from other salad products, including ready-to-eat bean sprouts, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

"If there is any doubt as to whether bean sprouts are “ready-to-eat”, or in the absence of clear preparation instructions, the FSA advises that bean sprouts should be washed and thoroughly cooked as a precaution. If this advice is followed bean sprouts will be safe to eat.”

Salmonella bareilly is a type of Salmonella that causes gastroenteritis in humans after eating contaminated food.

The bacteria are often found in the gastrointestinal tracts of wild and domestic animals and birds, especially poultry, and occasionally in humans.

Infection with Salmonella can cause watery and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, vomiting and fever. Illness can range from mild to severe.

The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.

The HPA urges people to wash their hands before eating or preparing food, after handling raw meat or poultry, after using the toilet, after changing nappies and after cleaning up after others with diarrhoea.

Hand-washing after contact with any pets or farm animals is essential, they added.

This article was published on Wed 29 September 2010

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