A Strong Evidence Outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis in Central Italy Linked to the Consumption of Contaminated Raw Sheep Milk Cheese

Microorganisms. 2021 Nov 29;9(12):2464. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9122464.


Salmonellosis is the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in humans after campylobacteriosis, and an important cause of foodborne outbreaks in the EU/EEA. The vast majority (72.4%) of the salmonellosis foodborne outbreaks reported in EU in 2019 were caused by Salmonella Enteritidis, even if their total number due to this serovar decreased. In spring 2020, a foodborne outbreak of S. Enteritidis occurred in the Marche region (Central Italy), involving 85 people. The common exposure source was a cheese, pecorino "primo sale", produced with raw sheep milk. The cheese batches were produced by two local dairies, with a livestock production facility, also including a sheep farm, being part of one dairy. Bacteriological analysis of samples collected allowed the detection of S. Enteritidis in animal faeces, environmental samples, raw-milk bulk tanks and milk taken from single animals. These data confirm that, despite the scarce scientific evidence, S. Enteritidis can infect sheep and be shed into the animals' milk. Hence, this is a real risk for public health when unpasteurized milk is used in production of such cheese. The present paper describes the results of the investigations conducted to clarify this outbreak.

Keywords: Salmonella Enteritidis; foodborne outbreak; pecorino “primo sale” cheese; raw milk; sheep; udder colonization.