The Food Standards Agency has warned consumers about the threat of salmonella in egg and poultry products imported from Poland.
The food safety watchdog, along with Food Standards Scotland and the UK Health Security Agency, issued guidance for consumers this week “to take care when handling and cooking poultry products at home”, following a recent rise in cases of food poisoning caused by salmonella enteritidis.
There is an investigation ongoing into multiple strains of salmonella, with over 200 human cases of salmonellosis caused by specific genetic strains of salmonella enteritidis that have been linked to Polish poultry products, including meat and eggs, this year.
The FSA said it was also in discussion with officials in Poland and the EU to ensure all necessary steps were taken to improve the safety of poultry and eggs imported from the country.
The forthcoming import controls would allow the UK to uphold the UK’s high food and feed standards and to protect public health, the FSA said.
From January, fresh meat products coming in from the EU will be largely considered as high or medium risk which will require products to have further checks before arriving into the UK. Eggs will also be mostly considered as medium risk.
“Our advice is to always take care when storing, handling, and cooking poultry products such as chicken, turkey and duck to help reduce the risk of food poisoning to you and your family,” said Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA.
“A number of the cases have involved the consumption of eggs produced in Poland and used in meals in restaurants and cafés,” Potter added. “We are therefore asking local authorities to remind food businesses about the importance of good hygiene practices.”
Earlier this year, a major meat supplier to UK supermarkets was found to be sourcing chickens dosed with antibiotics linked to the spread of deadly superbugs, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported.
It reported that the “superbug-infected chicken” could raise the risk of future outbreaks of life-threatening disease.
At the same time, shortages of UK-produced eggs resulted in an increase in imported product to keep up with demand.
The FSA’s decision to issue an official warning around the food poisoning risk associated with Polish eggs was welcomed by British Lion Eggs, which called on food manufacturers, retailers, caterers and consumers to put their trust in the food safety standards of British Lion.
“There have been ongoing food safety issues with non-UK eggs for years,” said Gary Ford, British Egg Industry Council CEO. “Once you move away from the comprehensive food safety controls offered by the British Lion Code of Practice, businesses that choose to use imported eggs do not only gamble with the health of their customers, they’re also putting their hard-earned reputations on the line.
“We strongly urge responsible businesses to source British Lion eggs, which are clearly marked with the little red lion on the packaging and the shell, to ensure that they are selling and serving safe eggs,” he added.