May 24, 2024

Port health agency stops import of Salmonella tainted chicken

Port health officials in England have blocked a shipment of cooked chicken from entering the country because it was contaminated with Salmonella.

Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA), part of East Suffolk Council, recently discovered Salmonella mbandaka in 21,800-kilograms (48,000 pounds) of cooked chicken imported to the Port of Felixstowe. 

The agency, which inspects imported food, feed and animal-origin products, said it was highly unusual to find Salmonella in pre-cooked chicken, as the bacteria should be destroyed when heat treated. This implies chicken was not cooked properly or it was contaminated afterward. Salmonella is sometimes found in raw chicken, however there is an expectation that people will cook it before consumption.

Jose Arruga, official veterinary surgeon at SCPHA who discovered the problem, said: “Unlike raw chicken, all pre-cooked chicken must be completely devoid of Salmonella according to UK legislation, as consumers are not expected to cook it as thoroughly. We have therefore ordered the destruction of this consignment and increased our checks to root out any more instances of Salmonella mbandaka.” 

SCPHA had found Salmonella in a previous import of chicken from the same factory as part of routine checks, prompting intensified controls for all future imports.

Arruga sampled the factory’s next export to Felixstowe and the sample tested positive for Salmonella mbandaka after laboratory analysis.

“As per guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), up to 30 imports of this product from the location in question must be clear of any contamination before we can resume routine checks. The cause could be something as simple as contaminated equipment at the factory or a wider issue,” he said.

Outbreak linked to chicken from Ukraine
In the UK, more than 130 people are sick with Salmonella Mbandaka after eating chicken products from Ukraine. Four patients were admitted to hospital and one person has died.

Intensified Official Controls started in April. This included a requirement that the next 10 imported consignments from the implicated establishment would be subject to extra inspections.

Because of continued breaches of food safety requirements, checks were escalated in May. These physical, documentary and testing inspections will remain in place until a minimum of 30 consecutive favorable results are achieved. An investigation by Ukrainian authorities has resulted in measures being taken at the facilities of the manufacturer.

In late 2022, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that Finland had 89 cases while a few patients also lived in the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Israel. 

Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, said: “We welcome the successful interception of the consignment of infected cooked chicken, and we commend Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority for doing so. This case highlights the importance of high-quality import checks and inspections at ports across the country. The steps taken by dedicated officers at SCPHA has helped keep UK consumers safe.” 

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