EU warns of salmonella outbreak caused by Spanish eggs

The European Union’s health and food bodies have reported on an outbreak of salmonella across the continent caused by eggs traced back to Spanish farms, with 272 cases in six countries, 25 hospitalisations and two deaths.  

eggs salmonella spain
According to the report, three Spanish farms are responsible for these outbreaks of the Salmonella Enteritidis strain. Photo: Jakub Kapusnak/Unsplash

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have published a report warning of an outbreak of salmonella that has so far affected 272 people in six countries since September 2021.

Twenty-five people have been hospitalised as a result and two people have died.

Most cases have been registered in fast-food restaurants in southern France (216), but also in Spain (22), the United Kingdom (12), the Netherlands (12), Norway (7) and Denmark (3).

They all have the same supplier, ‘Spanish Packing Centre A’, which distributes eggs from Spanish farms along with other animal products to the European countries mentioned. 

According to the report, three Spanish farms are responsible for these outbreaks of the Salmonella Enteritidis strain.

It also establishes microbiological connections between the current salmonella outbreak and one that occurred in 2019 in the Netherlands, which was also traced back to Spain. 

THE ECDC has warned that the risk of new infections due to affected batches of eggs remains high in the European Union and encourages member states to carry out investigations to detect possible contamination in their food chains.

Despite these warnings, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan) has not issued any alert about this outbreak for consumers in Spain. 

Spain’s mass production farms have been making headlines recently since the country’s Consumer Affairs Minister told The Guardian they were damaging the environment and producing poor-quality produce.

There have also been six reported outbreaks of bird flu at chicken farms in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia in recent weeks affecting tens of thousands of birds.

In January, the regional governments of Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón, Cataluña and Navarra agreed to prohibit or limit the construction of new intensive livestock farms in their territories.

Most people with a salmonella infection don’t experience symptoms but those who do can have diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps, with symptoms usually beginning six hours to six days after infection and lasting four to seven days.

The inside of eggs that appear normal can contain the salmonella germ that can make you sick, especially if you eat raw or partially cooked eggs. 

Salmonella is rarely fatal but if the virus enters the bloodstream it can be life-threatening, especially among people with weakened immune systems.

To reduce the chances of getting salmonella, keep eggs refrigerated and only buy eggs from stores that keep them refrigerated, discard cracked or dirty eggs and ensure that food products that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs such as mayonnaise or tiramisu are made only with pasteurised eggs and aren’t kept for long out of the fridge.

Foul-smelling or cracked eggs should also be avoided, and a trick recommended by Spanish consumer watchdog OCU to find out if an egg is not fit for eating is to put it in a glass of water. If it sinks, it’s okay to consume but if it floats it isn’t.

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024: What you need to know about Spain’s new suicide prevention hotline 

Spain has launched a 24-hour phoneline for people with suicidal thoughts and their families as part of a €100-million plan to improve mental health provision in the country, where an average of 11 people take their own lives every day. 

024: What you need to know about Spain's new suicide prevention hotline 

Spain’s Ministry of Health launches on Tuesday May 10th 2022 a specialised hotline under the motto “Llama a la vida”  (Call to life).

People experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviour as well as their relatives will be able to dial 024, available 24 hours a day for every day of year, a service that’s free of charge and completely confidential.

Fátima Caballero, Red Cross health director and who will manage the suicide prevention line, has said that a team of “qualified and multidisciplinary” professionals will “will provide response, prevention and emotional support” to people who are thinking about taking their own lives, are trying to do so, and assist their families.

According Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias, the team behind the suicide prevention line will speak several languages, without specifying if this includes English.

“(Suicide) is a threat that has been silenced for too long,” Darias said, stressing that calling 024 will be an option for people with disabilities in Spain.

Suicide is the main unnatural cause of death in Spain, with 3,941 cases accounted for in 2020 (no official data for 2021 yet), which represented the highest number on record and a 5.7 percent increase compared to 2019. 

That means that on average 11 people take their own lives every day in Spain.

The suicide prevention scheme is part of a €100-million package announced by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez last October to finance mental health provisions in Spain, as the public health sector has been struggling to cope with rising demand for mental health services during the pandemic.

The funds will go to training professionals, fighting stigmatisation, ensuring early detection, preventing suicide and promoting emotional wellbeing.

EXPLAINED: Spain’s new €100 million mental health plan

Regarding the suicide prevention hotline, Spain is following the example of other European countries that offer anyone who has thoughts of taking their own life the chance of having professional help, someone who listens to them and if necessary activates a response in coordination with the emergency services.

For Health Minister Darias the hotline is “a measure that will help many people” and serve to “end stigmas and taboos” around suicide.

The OECD has warned of the Covid-19 pandemic’s significant and unprecedented impact on mental health, the impact of which is still not yet fully understood.

Statistics show that 5.8 percent of the Spanish population has anxiety, and a similar percentage suffer from depression. On top of that, at least 1 million Spaniards have a “serious mental health disorder” and only half receive treatment.

“10.8 percent of Spaniards have consumed tranquillisers, relaxants or sleeping pills,” Sánchez tweeted last October. “This says a lot about the problem we have in our society with mental health. We cannot normalise it. We must respond to this issue and analyse its causes and origins.”

READ ALSO: How to find an English-speaking therapist in Spain