Ongoing Listeria outbreak linked to smoked fish – advice for people with liver conditions

Posted on: 4th May 2022

The UK Health Security Agency, Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to smoked fish. Listeria is a bacterium that causes an illness called listeriosis. Most people won’t have any symptoms of the infection or will only experience mild symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, which usually pass within a few days without the need for treatment. More serious infections such as severe sepsis and meningitis can develop in those with weakened immune systems or those over 65 years of age.

Given the ongoing outbreak, as a precaution, information has been updated for people who are vulnerable to Listeria infection. This includes  people with certain underlying conditions such as liver disease or those who are taking medications which can weaken the immune system. The advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is to thoroughly cook any smoked fish before eating it.

Professor Saheer Gharbia, Interim Deputy Director Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) at UKHSA, said:

“Listeria infection in most people is usually either unnoticed or may cause very mild gastrointestinal illness. However, it can have more serious consequences for some people, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions that cause weakened immunity, and people who are pregnant.

“There are certain foods that are more risky, and in light of this outbreak, we are advising pregnant and vulnerable people to thoroughly cook smoked fish before eating it. If you have any concerns about your health please speak to your midwife, GP or hospital specialist team.”

High risk groups

Risk of listeriosis is particularly high to individuals with cancer, organ transplants, patients taking oral steroids, patients undergoing immunosuppressive or cytotoxic treatment including biologics and chemotherapy, people who are pregnant and their new-born babies, those above 65 years of age, those with uncontrolled HIV infection, uncontrolled diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, people with an alcohol dependency and those with iron overload.