The Daily Telegraph

Pregnant and elderly told to avoid raw smoked fish

Listeria outbreak prompts warning that salmon and other ‘ready-to-eat’ items must be cooked properly

- By Joe Pinkstone

PREGNANT women and pensioners are being urged not to eat smoked salmon without cooking it first amid a listeria outbreak.

Fourteen people have fallen ill with an infection of Listeria monocytoge­nes since 2020, with eight cases found this year alone.

Although the illness is mild for most people, it can cause a miscarriag­e and is sometimes fatal for the vulnerable.

One case was a pregnant woman. The majority of the affected individual­s, who were in Scotland and England, reported eating smoked fish prior to their bout of illness.

Listeriosi­s is a form of food poisoning caused by the bacterium, and most people who are affected get mild gastroente­ritis which subsides in a few days.

Common symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

But other people are more vulnerable to a listeria infection than others, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued guidance that people with compromise­d immune systems, pregnant women and people over 65 should avoid eating smoked fish without cooking it first.

In vulnerable people the infection can be more serious, with the potential to cause meningitis or sepsis.

Older people and the immunocomp­romised, such as cancer patients, can fall gravely ill, while listeriosi­s in pregnancy can cause miscarriag­es and severe sepsis or meningitis in newborn babies.

The FSA advice stated that these groups should not consume “ready-toeat smoked fish” without cooking it thoroughly themselves first.

Dr Caroline Handford, acting head of incidents at the FSA, said: “While the risks to the general public of becoming seriously ill due to listeria are very low, we need people who are vulnerable – specifical­ly those over 65, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems – to be aware of the ongoing risks of consuming ready-toeat smoked fish.

“If anyone from these groups is eating ready-to-eat smoked fish, we are reminding them of the advice to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked before they eat it, including when served as part of a dish.

“People can also further reduce the risk by keeping chilled ready-to-eat smoked fish cold (5C or below), always using products by their use-by date, following the storage instructio­ns on the label, and cooking it until it is piping hot right through.”

Prof Saheer Gharbia, interim deputy director for gastrointe­stinal infections and food safety at the UK Health Security Agency, added: “Most people will not have any symptoms of the infection or will only experience mild symptoms such as abdominal pain or

‘We need people who are vulnerable to be aware of the risks of consuming ready-to-eat smoked fish’

diarrhoea, which usually pass within a few days without the need for treatment.

“However, some people are at higher risk of much more serious illness, including those with weakened immune systems such as people undergoing immunosupp­ressive treatment and people with chronic liver or kidney disease.

“In light of this ongoing outbreak, we are advising pregnant and vulnerable people to only eat ready-to-eat smoked fish that has been thoroughly cooked to reduce the risk of listeriosi­s.

“If you have any concerns about your health please speak to your midwife, GP or hospital specialist team.”

There has also been a raft of recalls for various cheeses sold by different companies after listeria was found in these products, but the current outbreak is thought to be linked to smoked fish.

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