Salmonella outbreak linked to backyard duck eggs
THE largest outbreak of salmonella poisoning in recent years has been linked to salmonella in duck eggs as more people keep their own poultry in the garden.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said yesterday that five new cases came to light last month and, in total, 24 people have been infected, half of whom required hospitalisation after contracting the life-threatening illness.
And it warned that this was only the tip of the iceberg as many more cases would have gone unreported.
This is already the largest food poisoning outbreak of salmonellosis recorded in recent years, the FSAI said.
The infected people have ranged from five months to 80 years of age and cases tended to be linked with eating duck eggs from small backyard flocks and private farms rather than commercial producers.
The confirmed cases occurred nationwide and were of the salmonella typhimurium DT8 strain, but hens' eggs were not implicated.
FSAI chief executive Alan Reilly said the symptoms suffered varied from mild discomfort due to vomiting and diarrhoea through to life-threatening illness.
"Infants, pregnant women, the frail elderly and the sick are most at risk from food poisoning," Prof Reilly said.
"Anyone who may have these symptoms and suspects it may have been from recently eating duck eggs should contact their doctor for advice," he added.
There have been no fatalities in the latest outbreak, but authorities are concerned that it has been continuing for several months and is geographically widespread as the "grow your own" culture means more and more people are keeping poultry at home.
The FSAI warned people to only eat duck eggs that had been thoroughly cooked and not to use them in recipes where eggs were left raw.
Prof Reilly said consumers, retailers and caterers should treat duck eggs as if they were raw chicken, making sure they were cooked thoroughly and preventing contamination between raw and ready-to-eat food.
"The fact that the outbreak is ongoing underlines the importance attached to maintaining stringent hygiene practices when handling raw duck eggs," he said.
"Even when duck eggs look clean, they many still have salmonellae on the outside of the shell."
Bord Bia is developing a quality assurance scheme to provide a safe source of duck eggs.