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Salmonella from cooked ham?

The UK’s Food Standards Agency has announced that there is a current outbreak of Salmonella in England and Wales which may be associated with cooked ham sold by independent butchers.

With 51 confirmed cases in patients ranging from babies to pensioners the outbreak has been slowly expanding since the first cases were confirmed in Wales in August . The first cases have been found to be infected by an uncommon strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Nine patients have been hospitalised.

It has been reported that Dr Judy Hart, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: “The strain of salmonella we are investigating is very unusual so it is highly unlikely that the cases in England and Wales are coincidental.”

Experts from the Welsh and English Public Health, Food Standards and local environmental agencies are trying to find links between the cases and trace the source of the outbreak. However the reports are relatively conjectural.

It appears that the epidemiological process has found that cooked ham bought from local butchers  are a common link with some of the cases, but there have been no positive results from testing the suspect products and the retail sources. Reading between the lines it looks as though the traceability systems worked and a potential source of the ham was traced. Investigators found no positive test results, but poor hygiene practices were identified. The supplier voluntarily withdrew the product.

According to a national politician this outbreak is the result of budget cuts!

The combination of curing and cooking in the production of cooked ham would suggest that there are enough CCPs to control the hazard but tests carried out whilst researching the growth of salmonellas on cooked cured pork seemed to identify a weakness in this assumption.

M. Akman and R. W. A. Park concluded nearly 30 years ago “that cooked ham containing approximately 2·8 g. NaCl/100 g. H2O once infected is more likely to give rise to food poisoning than is ham with the higher salt content traditionally used.”

Could this outbreak be the result of cuts in salt levels?

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