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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Spain set to offer 100% paid week-long leave to care for family members

The Spanish government is set to offer fully paid week-long leaves for workers to care for children, parents, other family members and partners who are unwell, with the country's Minister for Social Rights arguing the Covid-19 pandemic has taught society the importance of caring for loved ones.

leave spain care for family member
The proposal, which will still have to be approved by the Spanish Parliament, would also allow workers to book time off even if the family member's condition isn't serious, as is currently required. Photo: klimkin from Pixabay

Speaking on Thursday at a policy conference at the Caixa Forum in Seville where proposals for a new national framework on family support was presented, Minister for Social Rights and Agenda Ione Belarra said, “Spain must begin to bring itself into line with other European Union countries and establish a care leave of at least seven days a year per person, which is 100 percent paid.”

“Covid,” she added, “has taught us how important it is to take care of ourselves and to have time to take care of others.”

Belarra outlined her hopes that the policy would allow flexibility to caregiving, whether that be taking a paid day off work when caring for sick children, or having the time to be able to take elderly parents to doctor and hospital appointments. 

The permit will allow a worker to “stay at home caring for their children if they’ve spent all night vomiting or with a high temperature” and overall “give peace of mind to families who need to be close to their loved ones”.

Belarra and her government colleague Irene Montero, Minister for Equality, hope the Ley de Familias will extend paid care leave to nine days a year for carers travelling outside their region.

Spanish legislation currently allows for two days paid care leave, and the proposals would bring Spanish legislation on par with other European nations. The European Union recommends a minimum of five days per year.

Crucially, the proposals also extend the paid leave to include care for any cohabitant, not only blood relatives as current legislation allows. 

The proposal, which will still have to be approved by the Spanish Parliament, would also allow workers to book time off even if the family member’s condition isn’t serious, as is currently required.