The UK is at the forefront of an outbreak of Salmonella that has been linked to cucumber in ready-to-eat foods. It has been reported that nearly 150 people have been affected by Salmonella food poisoning with 88% of the cases in the UK.
Four other countries (Finland, Germany, Denmark and Ireland) have all reported cases of Salmonella enterica in cucumbers. The findings have come from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who have identified ready-to-eat meals containing cucumbers as a possible source.
The point of contamination in all cases has yet to be identified.
In a joint report the two European agencies said: At present, there is insufficient epidemiological information available on the consumption of contaminated products by humans to support the microbiological evidence provided by the isolation of the outbreak strain in food. “The epidemiological investigations in the other affected countries did not generate any strong hypothesis about the vehicle or source of infection.”
The report also stated that whilst the origin of the cucumbers was Spain, no connection between the supply chain and the primary producers could be established.
The outbreak includes 25 historical cases from 2014 to January 2017. The lack of a clear contamination source led the agencies to conclude it is likely new victims will emerge in early 2019, as has happened in previous years.
Advice on storing, washing and preparing fruit and vegetables to prevent food poisoning, including E. coli.
It is important to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure they are clean and safe to eat. Most people are aware of the importance of handling meat safely, but many consider the risk of food poisoning from vegetables to be low. A recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes associated with sweetcorn in 2018 has highlighted the need for end users to be aware of the risks associated with raw vegetables.
Prepared Watermelons are often linked to Salmonella outbreaks. The fruit should be washed thoroughly prior to cutting. If there is bacterial contamination on the surface, then the preparation can spread that bacteria throughout the fruit.
Washing will help remove bacteria, including Salmonella & E.coli, from the surface of fruit and vegetables. Most of the bacteria will be in the soil attached to the produce. Washing to remove any soil is, therefore, particularly important. When you wash produce, wash them under a running tap and rub them under water, for example in a bowl of fresh water. Start with the least soiled items first and give each of them a final rinse.
Alternatively, low level Chlorine wash tablets can be used to create a food safe rinse solution for the reduction of surface bacteria.
Washing loose produce is particularly important as it tends to have more soil attached to it than pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. It is always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure that they are clean and to help remove bacteria from the surface.
There is always a risk of harmful bacteria on loose vegetables spreading to other food if produce is not stored, washed and cooked properly.