Research – Two Outbreaks of Foodborne Gastrointestinal Infection Linked to Consumption of Imported Melons, United Kingdom, March to August 2021 – Salmonella – STEC E.coli

Science Direct

Abstract

The aim of this study was to describe two foodborne outbreaks caused by contaminated imported melon and make recommendations for future practice. Between March and July 2021, there was an outbreak of 113 cases of Salmonella Braenderup in the UK (62% female, median age 61 years, 33% hospitalized). Analytical epidemiological studies identified Galia melons as the vehicle of infection (OR 671.9, 95% CI 39.0–58,074.0, p < 0.001). Subsequently, the outbreak strain was isolated from two samples of Galia melon imported from Latin America. In July and August 2021, there was an outbreak of 17 cases of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 in the UK (53% female, median age 21 years, 35% were hospitalized). Review of the STEC surveillance questionnaire data, followed by the analysis of responses from a modified hypothesis-generating questionnaire, implicated eating precut watermelon from retailer B sourced from Europe as the vehicle of infection. Outbreaks of gastrointestinal pathogens caused by contaminated food of nonanimal origin are a global public health concern. Given the difficulty in removing pathogens from the flesh of ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables, public health interventions should target all steps of the food chain prior to consumption, from cultivation on the farm to processing/packing and distribution.

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