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The listeriosis outbreak originated in Andalusia by the contaminated meat of the Sevillian company Magrudis (La Mechá) triggered all the alarms because, as it has been shown later, it has become one of the most serious (for the number of people affected) of those registered in the world in recent years, although, fortunately, it has not been accompanied by the high mortality rate of other epidemic phenomena related to listeria.
But after the more than justified alarm of this first episode, which is already beginning to send, Andalusia has been shaken by two other alerts, linked to two other different sources of pollution, in both sausage factories of Paterna de Rivera (Cádiz) and Benaoján (Málaga). Has Andalusia become a favorable land for food poisoning? Is the Andalusian industry less rigorous in sanitary controls?
The expert of the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) who has become a spokesman for the Board during the listeria crisis, José Miguel Cisneros, has prepared a report that compares the three recorded alerts and clarifies some of the doubts that the They arise as a result of the accumulation of alarm signals in just one month.
To begin with, it is important to differentiate the terms 'food alert' and 'health alert' . The first occurs when a possible source of contamination is detected and the population is informed to avoid consuming the products under suspicion.
The second is decreed when there are already confirmed cases of poisoning by the consumption of contaminated products. We are therefore talking about a more serious stage of the episode, with those affected (no matter if they are few or many).
In the case of Magrudis, from the first moment the 'health alert' was decreed since there were from the beginning patients related to the listeria outbreak that, after being investigated, turned out to have been intoxicated by consuming the meat of the La Mechá brand. In total there are 215 patients related to the poisoning caused by Magrudis.
The case of Benaoján, registered with the Incaybe company, which markets the brand Montanera del Sur, is also a 'health alert', as there is a confirmed case of infection with L. monocytogenes and 7 people who have registered mild gastroenteritis.
However, in regards to the firm Sabores de Paterna , for the moment it is considered 'food alert', because there is not a single patient who has tested positive for listeria after consuming their products.
As José Miguel Cisneros explains, these three alerts are not related to each other and are very different for the following reasons:
The 2nd alert, the food (Flavors of Paterna), is one of the 11 that have been declared in Spain this year in relation to food contaminated by L. monocytogenes. These have been cephalopod mollusks, smoked fish, meat products (chorizo, sausage and cooked ham) and cheese. In 2018 there were 16 food alerts in Spain for food contaminated by L. monocytogenes; 16 also in 2017; and 13 in 2016 that this registration began.
Therefore, "food alerts for food contaminated by L. monocytogenes are frequent in Spain . They are a measure to protect the health of citizens and prevent them from consuming contaminated food by withdrawing them from the market," Cisneros said in his reports.
The 3rd health alert, registered with the Incaybe company, is a "limited outbreak." In Europe and the USA, outbreaks of food toxinfection by L. monocytogenes are common, generally causing few cases of infection. Some examples of similar alerts in Europe are as follows:
- 2018. An outbreak of corn toxiinfection that affected seven European countries with more than 40 infected patients.
- 2019. An outbreak for smoked salmon that has affected five countries and caused 22 infected patients.
- 2019. An outbreak for cheese in France with 7 infected patients.
In the case of outbreaks registered in the US , the report cites the following examples:
- 2017. Seven outbreaks of L. monocytogenes infection with 28 infected patients.
- 2019. Two outbreaks one in April for cheese and another in August yet to determine the food that has affected 24 patients.
"Therefore, outbreaks of food toxinfection by L. monocytogenes such as the 3rd alert are common in developed countries, generally causing few cases of infection," Cisneros concludes in his report.
However, what is considered an extraordinary situation is that originated by the Magrudis company, since it has caused by itself a total of 215 infected patients.
"There are only comparable precedents in an outbreak in the USA in 2011 that caused 147 infected patients, of which 22% died; and another in South Africa in 2017-2018, which caused 1,060 cases and mortality was 27%," reports the spokesperson for the technical commission created to analyze the situation in Andalusia.
In any case, the outbreak of poisoning linked to Magrudis is "in remission" from August 23 and could be extinguished in October. "Meanwhile it is expected that few or no cases appear every day due to the long incubation period of this bacterium, and the clinical results of the 215 infected patients are being much more favorable than expected."
The report concludes, therefore, that "the extraordinary thing about the current situation is the outbreak related to the product of the Magrudis company" and "it is very important to separate it from the other two alerts". "Because the food alert and the second outbreak are not related to the Magrudis company outbreak, because its impact on health is nil in one case and in the other very limited, and because they are frequent in developed countries."
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