Denmark – Major outbreak of E. coli is probably due to spring onions in ready-to-eat cabbage salad


The Statens Serum Institut (SSI) has seen an increase in the number of registered patients due to a special Escherichia coli (EIEC) in Denmark since 23 November 2021. The investigation shows that the source of infection is probably spring onions used in ready-to-eat cabbage salads, which are sold in three different retail chains.

Last edited December 27, 2021
Since mid-December, SSI, in collaboration with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, the DTU Food Institute and the clinical microbiological departments at the country’s hospitals, has been investigating the disease outbreak. From 23 November to 17 December 2021, 68 infections have been registered; 43 women and 25 men aged 1-91 years, and 20 people have been admitted to the hospital. The sick live throughout the country, except for the North Jutland region.

“This disease outbreak is unusual and extensive with 68 cases in three weeks. EIEC is a bacterium that usually affects travelers who have been to countries outside of Europe. When we saw a sudden increase in EIEC infection in Denmark, we were aware that there must be infection via a food ”
Epidemiologist Luise Müller from SSI

Ready-to-eat cabbage salad with spring onions

Interviews of patients have shown that several had eaten ready-made cabbage salads, and studies of purchasing data showed that the cabbage salads were purchased in the period from 15 to 30 November. Further investigation and tracing is still underway to uncover how the salads have been contaminated with the coli bacterium. For the time being, this indicates that the pollution has occurred at a subcontractor abroad.

The salads have been sold in i.a. REMA1000, COOP and Menu stores. They have a short shelf life of six days, and therefore there is no current risk with the cabbage salads that are on the shelves now.

Infects through food

EIEC is an intestinal bacterium that, like salmonella and campylobacter, typically spreads through food. Symptoms of an EIEC infection are acute stomach infection with diarrhea, general malaise, abdominal pain, possibly nausea, vomiting, and / or fever. The infection usually goes away on its own. Severe infections can manifest as dysentery (ie stool with blood, mucus and pus, fever and affected general condition).

What should you do if you have eaten that coleslaw?

If you have not had symptoms of an EIEC infection, or if you have had symptoms that have gone away on their own, do not do anything. In case of persistent symptoms or doubts, you can contact your own doctor.

Read more

Read more about E. coli infection
Read more about the EIEC outbreak

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