Authorities have urged consumers to cook raw meat properly as they investigate an outbreak of salmonella linked to lamb that has left almost 300 people ill.
The FSA, FSS, Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland are investigating a surge in infections from a particular strain of Salmonella Typhirium across the UK since July 2017.
People were most likely contracting the bug after eating or handling raw meat from infected sheep, they warned.
Prior to 2017, only two cases of this particular strain had been identified in England, but between July and November 2017, 95 cases were reported across England, Scotland and Wales.
Control measures were implemented and there were just 23 cases between December 2017 and June 2018, but since June there has been another surge of infections, with 165 cases reported.
“The likely cause of the increased numbers of this specific strain of Salmonella Typhimurium is considered to be meat or cross-contamination with meat from affected sheep,” said Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service at PHE.
“People can be infected with Salmonella Typhimurium in a number of ways such as not cooking their meat properly, not washing hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, or through cross-contamination with other food, surfaces and utensils in the kitchen.”
The FSA has put further control measures in place following the latest spike in human infections, including restricting animal movement and additional hygiene measures at slaughterhouses, but this hasn’t led to the same decline in cases as in 2017, it warned.
“We are advising care when preparing all meat, including lamb and mutton, to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with Salmonella Typhimurium. Our advice is to purchase food as normal but to take care when storing, handling and cooking raw meat,” said Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer at the FSA.
“People should wash their hands after touching raw meat, avoid contaminating other food in the kitchen by storing it separately in the fridge and using different chopping boards and knives, and ensure that meat, particularly diced and minced lamb, is cooked properly.”
According to a 2017 report from the Animal and Plant Health Agency, there was a “marked increase” in Salmonella Typhimurium infections in British sheep flocks during 2016. The majority of cases were Salmonella Typhimurium DT104, which is a highly virulent and multi-drug resistant form of the bacteria.
Salmonella infections cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting, and can be fatal in some cases.