US explores possible salmon role in Salmonella cases

Oct 3, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – US federal and state public health officials are exploring a possible link between recalled smoked salmon imported from the Netherlands and as many as 85 Salmonella Thompson infections that have been reported in the United States.

Yesterday Dutch authorities warned consumers not to eat Foppen salmon, which sickened at least 200 people in the Netherlands and 100 in the United States, according to media reports. Reports also said the product is sold in the United States through Costco stores.

Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CIDRAP News that federal and state health officials have been investigating a Salmonella Thompson outbreak that began in early September, but so far no food source has been identified.

The CDC has identified 85 cases in 27 states that have the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern since July 1, Russell said. The PFGE pattern is a common one, and the CDC typically expects about reported 30 cases during the same time period, so she emphasized that some of the 85 cases may not be part of the outbreak.

Ten people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported, she said.

US officials are aware of the Dutch recall and are investigating a possible link between the imported salmon and the US cases, she said. Health officials in several states are interviewing patients to determine the foods they ate the week before they became ill.

Costco is the only company that bought the Dutch company's salmon and is removing it from store shelves, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Craig Wilson, Costco's vice president of food safety, told the AP that the company received a call from Foppen late Monday and immediately pulled the products and blocked the sale of the salmon at store registers. The salmon was sold under both the Foppen name and Costco's Kirkland label. He said Costco will call customers who bought the products to alert them about the recall and will follow up with a letter.

So far Costco's independent testing hasn't detected Salmonella in the smoked salmon, and the company hasn't received any illness reports, Wilson said in the AP report.

In a statement on its Web site, Foppen had a message for US consumers who purchased packages of Foppen Norwegian smoked salmon slices and Kirkland Signature Norwegian imported smoked salmon. It said so far no health problems have been reported to Costco or Foppen by customers who bought the two products at Costco. The company also said tests have found no Salmonella in the two products.

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