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Salmonella Newport Outbreak

Posted on : 22 February, 2012 | Category : News

In early December 2011 an outbreak of Salmonella Newport was detected, as yet the cause of the outbreak has not been confirmed however a potential link with watermelons has been identified and an ongoing investigation that involves collaboration between the Health Protection Agency (HPA), Local authorities, the European Commission and other countries is in progress.

In the meantime the advice offered by The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food Industry to consumers is to always follow good hygiene practices when preparing raw fruit and vegetables.

Good practice includes;

  • Wash fresh produce thoroughly
  • Keep food preparation areas microbiologically clean by using an appropriate detergent & disinfectant or sanitiser.
  • Keep raw and ready to eat foods separate
  • Prepare food in stages to avoid having fruit and vegetables that have been cleaned in the same processing area as dirty produce. This will reduce the risk of cross contamination
  • Use appropriate storage containers that have been clearly identified for raw and ready to eat foods
  • Salmonella is killed by thorough cooking, however if the food contaminated is to be eaten raw it is important to keep it chilled between 0-5°C to prevent it from multiplying
  • Prepare foods in batches to ensure it is not exposed to room temperatures for longer than necessary

Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning in the UK, there are over 2,500 different strains the majority of which cause symptoms such as fever, abdominal pains, sickness and diarrhea. The onset time is usually between 12-36 hours and the illness can last from 4-7 days although in some cases the symptoms can be more severe and a course of antibiotics is needed. Often associated with raw chicken and eggs it would be true to say that the majority of consumers would be surprised to find it linked to fresh produce, despite the fact that the largest outbreak of this particular strain of Salmonella in 2004 was linked to the consumption of lettuce from restaurants and takeaways.

More recently, the number of cases recorded by the HPA in the last 3 years are as follows;

2011: 180

2010: 221

2009: 182

Ave: 197 (5 year average)

Despite this outbreak, the risk of eating watermelon remains very low, the cases reported representing a very small proportion of total consumption.

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