Pregnant women issued urgent warning over eating fish after listeria outbreak

Pregnant women have been issued a warning over eating smoked fish after an outbreak of listeria.

Cases of listeria monocytogenes – a bacterium that can cause the illness listeriosis – have been linked to smoked fish including salmon.

A number of cases of listeriosis have been found since January this year across England and Scotland – including one case in a pregnant woman.

The illness can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and can be dangerous for elderly, vulnerable and pregnant women. It can also lead to miscarriage and even stillbirth in severe cases.

Due to the recent outbreak, official information for people who are pregnant has been updated to advise that they thoroughly cook smoked fish before eating it.

The UKHSA, Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland issued the warning which was shared by NHS Tayside’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on social media.

The post read: “As a precautionary measure, government agencies are advising anyone currently pregnant to make sure that any smoked fish – such as smoked salmon or trout – has been thoroughly cooked before eating.

“This is due to a Listeria infection linked to smoked fish, and this contamination can be particularly unsafe for pregnant women.”

What is listeria?

Listeria has been linked to smoked fish including salmon

The UKHSA, Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to smoked fish.

This contamination could be particularly unsafe to people who are vulnerable to listeria infection – including people who are pregnant and people with certain underlying conditions or who are taking medications which can weaken the immune system.

Listeria is a bacterium that causes an illness called listeriosis. It is widespread in the environment and can contaminate a range of food at low or standard refrigeration temperatures.

It can be destroyed by thorough cooking. It is of most concern in chilled, ready to eat foods that do not require further cooking, such as smoked fish.

Most people won’t have any symptoms of the infection or will only experience mild symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, which usually pass within a few days without the need for treatment.

People who are pregnant are at increased risk of developing listeriosis which can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe illness in their newborn babies. More serious infection such as severe sepsis and meningitis can develop in those with weakened immune systems or those over 65 years of age.

Whole genome sequencing analysis has identified an outbreak of 12 linked cases of listeriosis since 2020, with 6 of these since January 2022. Cases have been identified in England and Scotland. The majority of these individuals reported eating smoked fish. One case was a pregnant woman.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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