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Outbreak of Food-poisoning Caused by Salmonella Virchow in Spit-roasted Chicken

Br Med J 1968; 4 doi: (Published 28 December 1968) Cite this as: Br Med J 1968;4:801
  1. A. B. Semple,
  2. G. C. Turner,
  3. D. M. O. Lowry


    Salmonella virchow food-poisoning acquired from eating chicken caused illness in at least 50 people who attended a tennis club function in Liverpool, and in many other people in the Merseyside area. In some cases the illness was severe, with positive blood cultures, and 35 people were admitted to hospital.

    The source of infection was a retail shop which received deep-frozen chickens already contaminated with S. virchow from a packing-station in Cheshire. These chickens were spit-roasted after inadequate thawing and subsequently handled under unhygienic conditions. The result was a massive build-up of salmonella contamination in the shop and in the chicken portions sold.

    S. virchow was isolated from over 160 patients and contacts in the Merseyside area during the outbreak and many continued to excrete the organism in the faeces after four months. Antibiotic treatment was not recomended because there was no evidence that it shortened the duration of excretion.

    A high rate of contamination of chickens from a packing-station by a salmonella type capable of causing serious disease in man is clearly a public health problem which cannot be ignored.

    The use of rotary spits for roasting chickens requires thorough investigation and appraisal, because as operated at present they evidently constitute a public health hazard.