As of 18 May, 324 salmonella infections in the European Union and the United Kingdom have been linked to the outbreak at the Ferrero chocolate factory in Arlon, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) announced last week that 62 cases are in Belgium.
The first case was detected on 7 January in the United Kingdom, but more began to follow in the coming months with at least 119 contaminations internationally by mid-April, all stemming from the same Belgian factory.
That number has more than doubled in the meantime to 324 cases, with 266 confirmed and 58 probable.
Cases span the globe as reports continue to trickle in
These are cases in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as cases identified in Switzerland and even in Canada and the United States.
More than 86% of the cases occur in children up to the age of 10, as infections seemingly concern the Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs, which are popular with children. Four out of ten children had to be hospitalised. No deaths have been reported.
The two strains of salmonella are multi-resistant and some tests also indicate resistance to disinfectants, a press release said, though the strains still respond to certain antibiotics.
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A filter used by two raw material reservoirs is thought to be the cause of the salmonella outbreak at the factory in Arlon.
The contamination was discovered on site on 15 December and on 8 April FASFC decided to withdraw the authorisation of the Ferrero factory. Shops were also asked to remove all the Kinder products that were produced in the factory from the shelves.
Still, it is not unusual that new contaminations appear, say EFSA and ECDC, because the chocolate products can be kept in the house for a long time before they are consumed. It also usually takes around three weeks before a contamination is reported.
The Ferrero factory in Arlon is still closed, but the company submitted an official application to be allowed to restart its production. The Belgian food agency is evaluating that application.