Infant formula products may be the source an outbreak of Salmonella Poona in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, according to the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).
An assessment carried out by the agency revealed 32 confirmed cases (30 in France, 1 in Belgium, 1 in Luxembourg) reported in the EU between August 2018 and February 2019.
The assessment—carried out in conjunction with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)—identified the common source as a three rice-based infant formula products.
Between August and October 2018, a Spanish processing company manufactured the suspected infant formula products.
Whilst the agencies declined to name the parties involved, Food Safety News reports that the products were made at the Industrias Lacteas Asturianas SA (ILAS) factory in Anleo in Spain.
"The investigation is ongoing and a control of all the products is being carried out," the factory said in a previous statement.
"To date, no analyses carried out on the product, nor the environmental controls, have detected the presence of Salmonella."
The assessment revealed that the products then went on to an unnamed French-based company (‘A’), who marketed these products having also distributed them to four countries outside of Europe.
Further details reveal these products were distributed to French wholesalers, retailers and pharmacies who sold them to EU, EFTA and other countries via wholesalers, online shops or an e-commerce operator.
According to French competent authorities, French company A ordered a recall and a withdrawal of infant formula products and baby food of the same brand on 24 January 2019. The company also ordered a recall in Luxembourg.
“Public warnings were released in France, Belgium and Spain, and the e-commerce operator informed all customers,” the rapid-outbreak assessment stated.
“In addition, recalls and public messaging were initiated in response to an INFOSAN alert in several non-European countries where the products had been distributed.
“Such measures should decrease the risk of new infections. However, additional outbreak cases may be reported, particularly among those having consumed the implicated products already sold and not recalled.”
The agencies added that so far all tests performed at the Spanish factory and on samples of the implicated batches have been negative for Salmonella Poona.
They added that this might be because Salmonella is typically difficult to detect in dried products and requires sampling and testing methods with a high degree of sensitivity.
ILAS is the same factory that was linked to a large national outbreak due to S. Poona in 2010 and 2011, where a total of 285 confirmed cases were reported.
Here, S. Poona was isolated in samples of infant formula from both open and sealed packages of a single batch of a brand consumed by 88 cases.
Country-specific data on the occurrence of S. Poona in food, animal and feed reported to EFSA by the Member States found that for 2017, no positive samples were reported from the 986 and 1 305 units tested.
These samples were for the food categories ‘foodstuffs intended for special nutritional uses’ and ‘infant formula’, respectively. No positive samples were reported for other foodstuffs in 2017.
During the period 2005–2018, no positive results for S. Poona were reported in the food categories ‘foodstuffs intended for special nutritional uses’ (7 249 units tested) and ‘infant formula’ (22 416 units tested).
By Will Chu