Millions of Brits issued health warning over smoked salmon

Dangerous bacterial infection can be produced if smoked fish is consumed past its best, and health officials say it could have severe consequences for anyone expecting a little one.

Anyone who is pregnant or has diabetes, liver disease or cancer should avoid smoked salmon and trout to prevent listeria.

Listeria is a form of bacteria which causes serious food poisoning and can even be fatal.

Furthermore, elderly people and anyone with weakened immune systems – such as those in the process of chemotherapy – should be extremely aware of the risks, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says.

Smoked and cured fish can be risky as it has not been cooked by heat, meaning any listeria bacteria present would not have been killed off.

The FSA said all fish should be cooked all the way through to fully ensure it’s safe to eat.

The reminder comes after a joint risk assessment was carried out by the body, and its equivalent in Scotland, triggered by an outbreak of listeriosis – the illness caused by the bacteria – which started in 2020.

Expectant mothers who catch listeriosis can be at increased risk of miscarriage and sepsis, FSA officials say, while it has also been known to cause meningitis in babies.

Smoked salmon is just one of several foods health experts warn against during pregnancy over food poisoning risks, including soft cheese, mould-ripened cheeses like brie and cooked shellfish.

While the risk is still low, there have been 19 recorded cases of people with listeriosis since 2020, according to the health bosses, the most recent being only last month.

Although, those who catch the bug can become seriously unwell – it has previously been known to be fatal in a very small number of cases.

In a 2019 outbreak, the Government confirmed six people had become seriously ill – three of whom died. The risk of severe illness increases with age.

Professor Robin May, chief scientific advisor for the FSA, said: “Our risk assessment shows that there is still an ongoing risk to health associated with eating cold-smoked fish for specific groups of vulnerable people.

“In light of the risk assessment, we are advising that these consumers avoid ready-to-eat cold-smoked and cured fish products.

“If you are in the group of people more at risk of listeria infection, and you decide to consume these products, we strongly recommend that you first cook them until steaming hot all the way through.

“This will ensure that any listeria present in the product is killed before it is eaten.”

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