ECDC issues update on Salmonella linked to chocolate products

31 May 2022

Article: 56/2108

As of 19 May 2022, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that 324 cases of Salmonella typhimurium type 34 infection, including two distinct strains, have been found in 12 EU and EEA countries, and the UK. A cluster of cases were originally reported in the UK on 17 February 2022. 

Most cases have been reported in children under ten years of age and 41% of all cases have been hospitalised. The two strains are multidrug-resistant, and some tested isolates also carry resistance to disinfectants that are based on quaternary ammonium compounds and hydrogen peroxide, but remain susceptible to azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, meropenem, and third generation cephalosporins. Epidemiological investigations suggested specific chocolate products of Brand A, produced by Company A in Processing Plant B in Belgium, as likely vehicles of infection. 

Two strains of monophasic Salmonella typhimurium matching the outbreak strains were identified in the buttermilk line at Plant B between December 2021 and January 2022. The buttermilk was provided by an Italian supplier where Salmonella was not detected. The Italian supplier delivered the buttermilk to other plants of Company A where, based on the available evidence, Salmonella was not detected. 

On 8 April 2022, based on official controls, the food safety authority in Belgium decided to withdraw the authorisation for production of the Plant B due to lack of transparency and insufficient guarantees for safe production. Company A globally recalled all products of Brand A produced at Plant B, with public warnings being issued by the relevant national authorities in different countries. 

This outbreak has evolved rapidly, with children most at risk for severe infection. The closure of Plant B and the global recall of all their products have reduced the risk of exposure. However, eight cases cannot be explained by consumption of chocolate products such as those manufactured at Plant B, suggesting that there may also be other sources of infection. 

Source: ECDC, 19 May 2022