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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Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.