Following a rapid outbreak assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), some chocolate eggs and other chocolate products made in Belgium have been linked to a multi-country salmonella outbreak prompting a major food recall. The products have also been recalled in US and Canada.
Chocolate products made by Ferrero in its Belgium establishment have been identified as the source of a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella, say the EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) following a rapid outbreak assessment.
A recall of Kinder chocolate products was extended last Friday, April 8, to include all of those manufactured at the Belgium site since June, regardless of their best-before date. The new update means all the products being recalled, regardless of the best-before date, "should not be eaten".
The products being recalled are Kinder Surprise eggs (20g), Kinder Surprise eggs (20g x 3 pack), Kinder Surprise eggs (100g), Kinder Mini eggs (75g), Kinder Egg Hunt Kit (150g), and Kinder Schokobons (70g, 200g, 320g).
The company is advising consumers to return these purchased products to receive a full refund.
Salmonella Cluster Linked to Chocolate Products
On February 17, the UK reported a cluster of cases with monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium sequence type 34 infection – experts commented that the strain identified exhibits resistance to seven antimicrobial classes but remains susceptible to azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, meropenem, and cephalosporins.
Investigations led by UKHSA, Public Health Scotland, Public Health Wales, and Public Health Agency Northern Ireland found a link between reported cases of Salmonella poisoning across the UK and products produced by the Ferrero company.
From April 6, public health warnings began being issued and the company carried out a voluntary recall of specific products and lots in various countries. On April 8, following official controls, the food safety authority in Belgium withdrew the company’s authorisation for production. In addition, the company recalled all batches of all products produced at the Belgian establishment regardless of their lot number or expiration date.
People Urged to Check Products
By April 8, the EFSA said 150 cases had been reported in nine EU/EEA countries and the UK. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that, as of April 13, 67 people in the UK were known to have been infected with Salmonella in the outbreak linked to the products, with the majority of those affected aged under 5 years.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has also issued an alert regarding a recall of certain Kind brands of chocolates on April 6. The US' FDA announced a voluntary recall of products from the Easter candy line yesterday, April 12.
Tina Potter, Head of Incidents, Food Standards Agency, said: "Consumers should follow the advice in the latest recall notice, which details all of the products which may pose a risk.
"We know that these particular products are popular with young children, especially as Easter approaches, so we would urge parents and guardians of children to check if any products already in their home are affected by this recall," she said.
European health officials investigating the Salmonella outbreak linked to Kinder chocolate products have said they suspect it is related to buttermilk used in a Belgian factory having matched the same Salmonella strain currently infecting people to samples taken from a factory in Belgium last December.
In their report they highlighted how "the processing step involving buttermilk was identified as the possible contamination point", and hygiene measures were implemented.
EFSA and ECDC experts said that "further investigations are needed" to identify the root cause, time and possible factors behind the contamination, including the evaluation of possible wider use of contaminated raw materials in other processing plants.
Good Hygiene Practice Essential
Tina Potter said that the FSA was "advising consumers not to eat any of the products listed in the FSA alert". She emphasised how it was "really important that consumers follow this advice to avoid the risk of becoming ill with Salmonella poisoning".
Dr Lesley Larkin, surveillance lead, Gastrointestinal Pathogens and Food Safety (One Health) at UKHSA, explained: "Symptoms of salmonellosis typically resolve themselves within a few days." However, she pointed out that symptoms can be "more severe, especially in young children and those with weakened immune systems, and lead to hospitalisation".
Dr Larkin, emphasised how Salmonella can be spread from person to person, so anyone affected should "adhere to good hygiene practice such as washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and avoiding handling food for others where possible, if you have symptoms."
Anyone with concerns that they might have salmonellosis is urged to seek medical advice.
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