Between 1 August and 15 September 2000, 361 cases of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium definitive phage type (DT) 104, resistant to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulphonamides, spectinomycin and tetracycline (R-type ACSSuSpT), were identified in England and Wales residents. Molecular typing of 258 isolates of S. Typhimurium DT104 R-type ACSSuSpT showed that, although isolates were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, 67% (174/258) were characterized by a particular plasmid profile. A statistically significant association between illness and consumption of lettuce away from home was demonstrated (OR=7·28; 95% CI=2·25–23·57; P=0·0006) in an unmatched case–control study. Environmental investigations revealed that a number of food outlets implicated in the outbreak had common suppliers of salad vegetables. No implicated foods were available for microbiological testing. An environmental audit of three farms that might have supplied salad vegetables to the implicated outlets did not reveal any unsafe agricultural practices. The complexity of the food supply chain and the lack of identifying markers on salad stuffs made tracking salad vegetables back to their origin extremely difficult in most instances. This has implications for public health since food hazard warnings and product withdrawal are contingent on accurate identification of the suspect product.
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