A Shigella outbreak in Denmark that has struck more than 40 people was probably caused by imported fresh mint. In August and September, 44 Danes became ill; 13 people were hospitalized. Those sickened mostly live in Hovedstaden.
The Statens Serum Institut (SSI) investigated the outbreak with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and DTU Food Institute. Inquiries showed the majority of patients had eaten fresh mint bought at local greengrocers or bazaars in and around the Copenhagen area from mid to late August. Because of the herb’s short shelf life, it is thought there is no longer any contaminated product on the market and no risk of more people being infected.
Among the 36 interviewed patients, 24 had eaten fresh mint before disease onset. Of the 24 cases, 22 had bought it in a greengrocer or bazaar. It was not sold in retail chains. A total of 12 different places were mentioned, which indicated the source of infection was a locally traded food.
The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has seized mint lacking traceability details and has taken some test samples with results pending. Luise Muller, an epidemiologist at SSI, told foodsafetynews.com that the outbreak was an opportunity to remind consumers that fresh herbs must always be washed thoroughly before eating them.