Spaniards urged not to undercook omelettes after salmonella outbreak

Spaniards with a taste for oozing, fleetingly cooked tortilla de patatas have been urged to take care after more than 100 people fell ill with suspected salmonella poisoning from eating the famous egg and potato omelettes at a well-known restaurant in Madrid.

So far, 101 people have become ill – 13 of whom have required hospital treatment – after eating at Casa Dani, a longstanding gastronomic institution in the Spanish capital.

At the end of January, Casa Dani, which serves up to 700 tortillas a day, apologised for what had happened and said it would close its doors until an investigation by the regional health authorities had concluded.

María del Toro, a researcher at the La Rioja Centre for Biomedical Research in northern Spain, urged people to be careful when eating egg dishes in restaurants – and when preparing them at home.

“We all like a runny tortilla but it’s a risk – and it’s especially risky if it’s going to be eaten by kids, by immunocompromised people, by old people, or by pregnant women,” Del Toro told the COPE radio station this week.

“We need to be careful when we cook food and we need to be careful when we’re cooking tortillas – because they’re made with eggs – but also when we’re cooking poultry, like turkey or chicken, because they can also be contaminated with salmonella.”

Del Toro was more emphatic in a tweet on Sunday, saying: “With a liquid tortilla, you’re playing wheel of fortune with salmonella.”

Spain recently updated a 30-year-old food hygiene law that had stipulated that fresh eggs needed to be cooked at a temperature of at least 75C (167F). Under the new rules, which came into force last December, eggs must be cooked at a temperature of at least 70C for two seconds or at a temperature of at least 63C for 20 seconds. The latter timing is recommended for “fried eggs, tortillas or other [egg] dishes”.

The Madrid regional government advises fans of oozy omelettes to prepare them using pasteurised, rather than fresh, eggs. It also reminds people to take extra care during the scorching summer months.

“There are more tortilla poisonings during the summer and the hotter months,” reads the advice on its website. “This happens because raw eggs are used, the centre of the tortilla doesn’t set, and the tortilla is kept at room temperature for more than two hours before being eaten. Such practices favour the growth of a bacteria called salmonella.”

Runny versus well set is not the only perennial debate among tortilla aficionados. Squabbles over whether or not onion belongs in a tortilla de patatas continue with tedious regularity even though a groundbreaking El Mundo poll in 2021 found that 72.7% of those surveyed favoured onion, 25.3% were against, while a non-committal 1.9% didn’t answer.