Listeria warning over smoked fish

Consumers in vulnerable groups have been warned not to eat smoked fish unless it has been thoroughly cooked.

The message comes jointly from Food Standards Scotland, the UK Food Standards Agency and the UK Health Security Agency. Food safety professionals are concerned that an ongoing outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria could be dangerous for some individuals, particularly those aged over 65, or who are pregnant, or have weakened immune systems.

The agencies recommend that people in these groups should make sure ready to eat smoked fish is cooked through before they eat it.

An investigation has identified 14 linked cases of listeriosis since 2020, with eight of these occurring since January 2022, in England and Scotland. While the majority of Listeria cases cause mild gastroenteritis which usually persist for a few days, people in vulnerable groups can suffer more serious illness, including meningitis and life-threatening sepsis.

Ian McWatt, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) Deputy Chief Executive, 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 to eat 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 (5⁰C 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.”

Food Standards Scotland has developed an online Safe Smoked Fish Tool for manufacturers to assess their individual practices and ensure that they minimise the risk of contamination. The tool covers cold and hot smoking, as well as shelf life assessment.

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