The Norwegian authorities point to cucumbers produced in Spain "as the most likely source" of a major salmonella outbreak that has caused 72 cases and 24 hospitalizations in the country in the last two months.
This is stated in the statement made public this Tuesday, which details the investigations carried out in recent weeks.
These "terminate" the outbreak, which began at the end of October and has lasted until the beginning of this month, because the cucumbers involved would have already been consumed, "although it cannot be ruled out that more cases appear."
The total number of people affected is probably over a hundred, since the Swedish and Dutch authorities are also investigating dozens of cases of food poisoning caused by the same strain of
identified in Norway.
"Cases with the same strain of the outbreak have also been reported in Sweden and the Netherlands in the same period," the statement said.
In the first country, according to the latest official count by the authorities, the cases detected are 26, while the Netherlands has not provided data.
The relationship of diagnoses made in the three countries has been confirmed by genetic sequencing tests.
Sources from the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) call for "prudence so as not to generate alarm" and recall that "the information reported by Norway through the Rapid Alert System of the European Union (RASFF) is not conclusive or sufficiently verified”.
As usually happens in the investigation of these outbreaks, detected several days after the consumption of food and in which samples are not usually available to analyze, the conclusions of the Norwegian authorities remain a point of uncertainty.
"These lots of cucumbers are no longer on the market and, therefore, the bacteria could not be identified in them," admits the country's public health officer, Heidi Lunge.
However, after "carrying out extensive tracing work", in which hospitals, the Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and veterinary services have participated, "lots of cucumber from a Spanish supplier have been identified as the most probable source of infection”, highlights the statement.
The investigations began at the end of October, when several cases of salmonellosis were identified that genetic tests revealed that they were caused by the same type of bacteria, which pointed to a common origin.
“The Institute of Public Health has analyzed more than 50 patient interviews and their purchase information and has also carried out a case-control study comparing what the infected have eaten with what a random selection of other people have eaten” , the Norwegian government has reported.
The high consumption of cucumber in the country —more than 90% of those surveyed stated that they had eaten this food the previous week— prevented drawing clear conclusions from the case-control study, but it did allow "discarding other hypotheses as a source of infection."
Subsequent epidemiological investigations and the work of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority have been the ones that have ended up pointing to cucumbers imported from Spain.
Those affected by the outbreak in Norway have been diagnosed in practically the entire country (only one of the 11 provinces has not registered cases).
They are between 1 and 88 years old, the median age is 36 years, and 35 of them are men and 37 women.
In Sweden, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency, there were 26 cases detected until the 9th, of which 15 were women.
The cases are also widely distributed throughout the country, with diagnoses in 12 of the 21 existing provinces.
Food safety problems related to cucumbers are a very bad memory for the powerful export sector of Spanish agriculture, which supplies fruit and vegetables to practically all of Europe.
In 2011, in the so-called “cucumber crisis”, the authorities in Hamburg (Germany) falsely accused Spanish cucumbers of being responsible for 56 deaths caused by another bacterium,
Finally, the most affected company was compensated by the German authorities.
According to the investigations, the origin of the outbreak would be in products made in Germany itself, although without ruling out its relationship with imports from third countries such as Egypt.
Salmonella is a genus of bacteria that is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, called in this case salmonellosis.
The infection has an incubation period that goes from a few hours to up to five days, and in the most serious cases it causes intense vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.
In the vast majority of patients, it is mild and subsides in 24 or 48 hours, although in the elderly, young children, and immunocompromised patients, complications can be fatal.
The AESAN has reported that it has contacted the Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Center and the regional authorities so that, in the event that it is a food of Spanish origin, the traceability of the cucumbers has been analysed. .