Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Nationwide outbreak of human salmonellosis in Germany due to contaminated paprika and paprika-powdered potato chips

A. Lehmachera1, J. Bockemühla1 and S. Aleksica1

a1 Institute of Hygiene, Division of Bacteriology, National Reference Centre for Enteric Pathogens, Marckmannstraβe 129a, D-20539 Hamburg, Germany


Between April and September 1993, a nationwide outbreak of salmonellosis occurred in Germany which was traced to contaminated paprika and paprika-powdered potato chips. Of the estimated 1000 cases, children below 14 years were principally affected. Levels of 0·04–0·45 organisms per gram were found in the snacks. The infective dose was estimated at 4–45 organisms with an attack rate of 1 in 10000 exposed persons. The unique feature of the outbreak was the variety of serovars involved. S. saintpaul, S. rubislaw and S. javiana were isolated during the same time period from paprika powder, spice mixtures, snacks and patients. Their clonal identity was confirmed by molecular typing methods. Furthermore, monophasic and non-motile strains of rare salmonella O-groups were isolated from both paprika products and patients. This is the largest documented outbreak due to contaminated spices which proved that even extremely low numbers of salmonellae adapted to the dry state were able to cause illness.

(Accepted August 02 1995)