An Outbreak of Norovirus Infection from Shellfish Soup Due to Unforeseen Insufficient Heating During Preparation


Norovirus causes large outbreaks involving all age groups and are considered the most common cause of infectious foodborne diseases worldwide. The aim of this study was to describe a norovirus outbreak connected to insufficient heat treatment during preparation of a shellfish soup in serving portions, during a company Christmas celebration in Norway, December 2013. A questionnaire sent to the employees, showed that 67 % (n = 43) of the celebration participants, reported gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and light fever in the period between 24 and 48 h post celebration. Several dishes were served, including shellfish soup made with carpet shell clams (Tapes rhomboides) in porcelain cups. Consuming this soup, was the only significant risk factor for infection. Norovirus GI and GII were detected in the remaining raw shellfish. To mimic the time and temperature obtained during bivalve soup preparation, raw chopped shellfish tissue and raw cepa onion were added in porcelain cups tempered to 20 °C. To each of these cups, boiling soup base was added. The temperature in the shellfish tissue was continuously recorded, and showed a maximum of 49 °C in the period between 3 and 7 min after adding the boiling soup base. After 1 h the temperature was 30 °C. This time and temperature combination was obviously not sufficient for inactivation of norovirus present in the shellfish tissue. In conclusion, the heat-absorbing capacity of cold ingredients, utensils and table wear porcelain should not be underestimated during food production. Consumers who want to avoid eating raw shellfish, should not assume that the shellfish tissue in preparation as described in our study is adequately heat treated.

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Authors’ contributions

Bjørn Tore Lunestad and Arne Duinker designed the case–control study and conducted the data analysis. Mette Myrmel conducted the virus detection. Bjørn Tore Lunestad, Arne Duinker, Cecilie Smith Svanevik, Amund Maage, Irja Sunde Roiha and Mette Myrmel prepared, revised and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bjørn Tore Lunestad.

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Lunestad, B.T., Maage, A., Roiha, I.S. et al. An Outbreak of Norovirus Infection from Shellfish Soup Due to Unforeseen Insufficient Heating During Preparation. Food Environ Virol 8, 231–234 (2016).

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  • Norovirus
  • Norovirus outbreak
  • Carpet shell
  • Temperature tolerance