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Largest Outbreak in Recent Years Linked to Salmonella in Duck Eggs

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The investigation into the current outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 linked with the consumption of duck eggs is ongoing, with five new cases in August.  This brings the total number of confirmed cases to date to 24 and it is now the largest food poisoning outbreak of salmonellosis recorded in recent years in Ireland.  In light of this, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today reiterated its advice on the safe consumption of duck eggs.  The people infected have ranged from 5 months to 80 years of age.  The latest cases tend to be linked with the consumption of duck eggs from small backyard flocks / private farms.  The confirmed cases are nationwide.  Hens eggs are not implicated in this outbreak.

The FSAI advises to only consume duck eggs that have been thoroughly cooked and to cease using raw duck eggs in any dishes that will not be cooked thoroughly prior to eating.  It also cautions on the importance of good hygiene practices being followed, such as washing hands and preparation surfaces after handling or using duck eggs. 

    “We are advising caterers, retailers and consumers to treat duck eggs in the same way as they would raw chicken.  We all know that we should never eat raw chicken.  This is a risk that is well understood by everyone, both in term of ensuring it is cooked thoroughly and also by maintaining good hygiene practices, thereby preventing cross contamination between raw food and ready-to-eat food.  However, people may have forgotten that duck eggs have been associated with Salmonella in the past and therefore, are not taking the correct precautions today.  The fact that the outbreak is ongoing, underlines the huge importance attached to maintaining stringent hygiene practices when handling raw duck eggs.  Even when duck eggs look clean, they may still have Salmonellae on the outside of the shell and sometimes carry it on the inside of the egg,” said Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI.  

    “The symptoms of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 infection vary from mild discomfort due to vomiting and diarrhoea, to life threatening illness. Infants, pregnant women, the frail elderly and the sick are most at risk from food poisoning.  Anyone who may have these symptoms and suspects it may have been from recently eating duck eggs should contact their doctor for advice,” continued Prof Reilly.

The FSAI is working in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on control measures for commercial flocks and also smaller backyard flocks on private farms.  A code of practice has been published for commercial flock owners and also guidelines have been published for producers of small quantities of duck eggs – backyard flocks.  Work is also underway by Bord Bia to develop a new quality assurance scheme to ensure a safe source of duck eggs in the future.

The FSAI is continuing to work closely with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and various local authorities to control this outbreak and to prevent further cases of illness. 


Note to Editors:

The FSAI advice for consumers and caterers is as follows:

• Duck eggs should not be eaten raw
• Only eat duck eggs that have been thoroughly cooked, until both the white and yolk are solid
• If you are preparing a dish that contains duck eggs, ensure that you have cooked it thoroughly before eating it
• Do not use raw duck eggs in the preparation of products that contain raw or lightly cooked egg, such as homemade mayonnaise, tiramisu, icing, hollandaise sauce
• When using duck eggs in cooking or baking, do not eat or taste the raw mix
• After handling raw duck eggs, always wash hands thoroughly
• Ensure all utensils and preparation surfaces that have been in contact with raw duck eggs are washed thoroughly before being re-used
• Store duck eggs in the fridge away from ready-to-eat foods

Guidelines for Producers of Small Quantities of Duck Eggs 
Frequently Asked Questions on Egg Washing


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