Spain, Salmonella and Eggs – Foodborne Illness

(Note: Background information on Salmonella comes from the Food and Drug Administration’s Bad Bug Book which is an excellent reference guide)


Foodborne illness has been reported regarding eggs in Spain, dating between 2022 and 2023. Here are two excerpts from news articles:

From The Guardian 2/5/2023Spaniards with a taste for oozing, fleetingly cooked tortilla de patatas have been urged to take care after more than 100 people fell ill with suspected salmonella poisoning from eating the famous egg and potato omelettes at a well-known restaurant in Madrid.

So far, 101 people have become ill – 13 of whom have required hospital treatment – after eating [name removed] in the Spanish capital. Spain recently updated a 30-year-old food hygiene law that had stipulated that fresh eggs needed to be cooked at a temperature of at least 75C (167F). Under the new rules, which came into force last December, eggs must be cooked at a temperature of at least 70C [158F] for two seconds or at a temperature of at least 63C [145.4 F] for 20 seconds. The latter timing is recommended for “fried eggs, tortillas or other [egg] dishes”.

From The Food Safety News 2/16/22
An outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis ST11 in Europe that has resulted in two deaths, 25 hospitalizations, and at least 272 illnesses, has been traced back to eggs from Spain, according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA). The eggs originated from three Spanish farms, one testing positive for the outbreak strain, the report stated. Fresh table eggs from the farms linked to the outbreak were withdrawn from the consumer market and redirected for use in heat-treated egg products.”

A total of 8,777 Salmonella infections were reported in Spain in 2022. The top Salmonella serotype was Typhimurium, followed by Enteritidis, according to National Epidemiological Surveillance Network (RENAVE) data. There were 258 outbreaks with 1,332 cases and 185 hospitalizations. Eggs and egg products were implicated in 94 outbreaks. It is important to note, however, that authorities believe incidences may be spreading across Europe.

Early Warning Food Service Systems publishes these blog postings for information and education. These ‘real life’ incidents show the relevance and background of food safety regulations.

Knowing About Salmonella and Eggs

Salmonella causes two kinds of illness: gastrointestinal illness and typhoidal illness (typhoid fever). Gastrointestinal illness causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and fever; in healthy people, these symptoms last a few days, taper off within a week and go away by themselves. Typhoid fever causes high fever diarrhea or constipation, aches, headache and lethargy (drowsiness or sluggishness). Typhoid fever can be very serious; 10% of people can die if they do not receive treatment. These symptoms become more serious with infants, older people and people with compromised immune systems. The infective dose can be as little as one cell (invisible except under a microscope). For this reason, undercooked raw animal foods and eggs are not permitted for service to these populations. Once the illness has subsided, it can be carried for a significant time by otherwise healthy individuals and could result in further contamination of food. Thus, it is important to report this illness to the health department. In the case of typhoid fever, chronic infection of the gallbladder may occur, which may cause the infected person to become a carrier; Typhoid Mary is a famous case of a food service worker who was a carrier of typhoid fever (see references below – they’re fascinating reading! (1)
Salmonella is common in soil, water, dust; foods involved are meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables and dry foods such as spices and raw tree nuts. It is difficult to wash off food, even with soapy water so other preventive measures such as cooking, hand washing, preventing cross-contamination and temperature controls (165F for hot foods, below 40F for cold foods) become very important.

Salmonella and Eggs

Various Salmonella species have long been isolated from the outside of eggshells, but S. Enteritidis can be present inside the egg. The bacteria may be present prior to the eggshell formation. For this reason, please consider the following preventive control measures: (1) Always purchase eggs from approved, licensed suppliers; (2) Carefully inspect all egg deliveries for any cracked or soiled eggshells, or temperature abuse (above 45F- this temperature is allowed only for shell eggs); (2) Cook all egg products to 145F for 15 seconds and 155F for 15 seconds if the eggs will be held hot for later service; (3) Never pool eggs (unless during preparation), as any contamination may spread throughout; (4) Read the section on cross contamination below; wash hands, clean and sanitize utensils and surfaces to avoid spread of Salmonella from raw to cooked products; (5) As stated above, raw or undercooked eggs are not allowed for service in schools, day care, adult care or health care facilities – only pasteurized eggs are allowed in these cases. A food service located near a health complex or with a large senior citizen customer base still might consider adopting these regulations.

The organism also survives well on low-moisture foods, such as spices, which have been the vehicles for large outbreaks. When adding spices to prepared foods always reheat to 165F for 15 seconds to avoid risk of further contamination. Salmonella can survive well in air borne dust, pooling water or dripping faucets. Regularly check for these problems; clean air diffusers and fans to eliminate dust and dirt. When preparing food, work with limited quantities and protect the food from air borne contamination. A few examples of foods that have been linked to Salmonella illness include meats, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, fish, shrimp, spices, yeast, coconut, sauces, freshly prepared salad dressings made with unpasteurized eggs, cake mixes, cream-filled desserts and toppings that contain raw egg, dried gelatin, peanut butter, cocoa, produce (fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and cantaloupes), and chocolate.

Cross contamination occurs when Salmonella is spread from a contaminated source – a contaminated food or an infected food handler or animal – to other foods or objects in the environment. An example of how this may occur is when potentially contaminated raw meats, poultry, seafood, produce, or eggs are not kept separate from each other during preparation or cooking, or when a food handler does not adequately clean utensils, surfaces, equipment, and hands after they have come into contact with these products. The contamination can spread to factory and equipment surfaces, as well as kitchen surfaces and utensils. Cross contamination may occur at any point in the food process. Cross contamination also may occur from handling pets or wildlife, such as turtles or frogs (or their water, soil, or food and water bowls), then handling food, food-preparation utensils, or other objects in the environment. (Even culinary frog legs have caused outbreaks of salmonellosis.)

Thank you for reading! David