FSA stands by Spanish Salmonella claims

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Eggs Fsa Foodborne illness Food safety Zoonosis Salmonella

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has hit out against Spanish
claims that the regulator's findings, published last week, were out
of date, inaccurate and commercially driven.

A spokesman for the FSA told FoodProductionDaily.com today: "We found what we found and we stand by our results."

The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) has discredited the FSA report, published on 15 November, which states that one in every eight Spanish egg boxes tested positive for Salmonella in a survey of non-UK eggs.

A spokesperson from MAPA argued that the FSA report was based on samples taken between 2005 and 2006 from one packing centre in Valladolid which packages eggs from only three farms out of a total of 1,100 farms that export eggs.

The food regulator revealed that out of a total of 1,744 boxes of six eggs or more from European farms tested during March 2005 and July 2006, Salmonella contamination on the egg shell was found in 157 box samples, with a high proportion originating from Spain.

The food regulator found that eggs from Spain had the highest rate of contamination, with an estimated one in every eight boxes testing positive. The FSA did state, however, that the contaminated eggs came from just three Spanish farms.

The FSA's findings are supported by a survey published this summer by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EU-wide survey found Spain had the highest prevalence of Salmonella while testing eggs on farms.

"Our finding are backed up by those found by EFSA. Our testing was conducted on stamped eggs in boxes ready for sale. EFSA were testing for Salmonella at the actual farms. It makes sense that you find Salmonella in boxed eggs if the contamination is also found at the farm they came from,"​ an FSA spokesman said.

The FSA's own findings follow investigations of food poisoning outbreaks carried out by the Health Protection Agency during the three years to 2004 where the FSA took steps to protect consumers from salmonella in Spanish eggs.

The agency issued specific guidance to caterers on the safe handling and cooking of eggs, advising that all eggs from Spain should be heat-treated before use.

An FSA spokesman said: "The problem with Spanish eggs has been ongoing."

By far the most frequently reported zoonotic diseases in humans are salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, with the most deadly being listerious, according to a European Commission study published last year.

The study found there were 192,703 reported cases of salmonellosis and 183,961 of campylobacteriosis cases reported during 2004 in the EU's 25 member states.

The cases are out of a total of 400, 000 human cases of zoonoses reported. Most of the cases were foodborne and associated with mild to severe intestinal problems.

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