Not all food poisoning outbreaks can be traced to a particular source or cause, regardless of how much work is done by authotities. Sometimes the cause or is found through a lucky break.
That’s what happened this year in the massive investigation into the source of the first Salmonella enteritidis (SE) outbreak in Australian history.
This species of Salmonella is different and more frightening than any other because it actually gets into the egg during it’s formation in the hen. Other Salmonella specieis can be removed because they are on thye outside of the shell, SE cannot.
This is the first time SE has caused illness in this country, with nearly 200 confirmed cases, so it was essential that the source be found and found quickly to, hopefully, find a way to ensure that this is the only outbreak.
Health departments across the country have to rely on the memory of those who have been ill to remember what they have eaten and drunk and where from for anything up to a week. Most of us cannot remember what we had for dinner two nights ago, so getting a clear list of all foods eaten in a week can be challenging.
This obviously makes determining a source for food poisoning outbreaks very difficult.
So investigators have to use other methoids and sometimes it can be about asking questions that may not seem logical, and sometimes it can be someone remembering something they may think is unimportant.
That is what happened with the SE outbreak. One of those who had been sick remembered that they had a meringue in their freezer which had been left over from the time they became sick.
Investigators took it away and tested it, and found the exact strain of SE which had been involved in the outbreak. Using the traceability of the meringue manufacturer, the investigators were able to work out exactly where the eggs had come from.
With testing of that farm, they were able to identify the presence of SE there.
As a result of this lucky break, the outbreak source had finally been identified. It has resulted in one property in Victoria and 13 in NSW involved and more than half-a-million birds having been culled at a cost of $10 million.
This bacteria can be found in dust and dirt and on vehicles, as well as on the skin of rodents and wild birds. It can easily spread in the wind. It can live in the environment for up to two years, and can survive and multiply without a host.
In other words, it is a major potential problem for egg farms.
The only prevention is outstanding biosecurity to stop it getting onto the farm in the first place.
As a result of this outbreak the egg industry is in a state of major change as methods are adopted by egg farms across the country to implement and mange their biosecurity.
The aim of every food poisoning investigation is not only to identify the source or cause but, more importantly, to put actions in place to stop a future outbreak.
With that one lucky break, this investigation has indeed met this aim and we are all safer for it.
The following is a media release from the New South Wales Food Authority and is included here with permission.
The NSW Food Authority is advising consumers who may have purchased salted or pickled clam products from Koryo Food Co. or Byul Mi Kim Chi to destroy any remaining product or return it for a refund.
Consumers should not consume these products.
Koryo Food Co. and Byul Mi Kim Chi have recalled these products due to a potential link with hepatitis A from salted or pickled clams imported from South Korea. Authorities in South
Korea recently issued an advisory warning consumers in that country to avoid certain types of salted or pickled clams, due to links with hepatitis A.
NSW Food Authority CEO, Lisa Szabo said testing was underway on a number of products but full results may take a number of weeks.
“Although a contamination has not yet been confirmed, we have advised the companies of a potential link to 8 cases of hepatitis A in NSW, and they have both undertaken a recall of the product,” Dr Szabo said.
“We want to ensure all consumers who may have these products are aware of the possible link between the product and hepatitis A.
“While the affected products have been recalled from participating retailers, consumers may still have product they have already purchased in their fridges.”
Australian grown clams are not implicated in this outbreak.
Food products contaminated with hepatitis A virus may cause illness if consumed. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice, and should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver and is usually spread by consuming contaminated food or water or by direct contact with an infected person.
If you have consumed the affected product and are experiencing any symptoms of hepatitis A: fever, nausea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, followed by dark urine, pale stools and jaundice (yellowing of the eyeballs and skin), please see your doctor for testing and treatment advice.
Anyone who has been previously vaccinated for hepatitis A is considered not at risk of infection.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health will continue to monitor the situation.
For more information, visit http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/news?t=3&y=2019&
A recent survey by SAI Global of 1008 Australian adults has shown that we are very concerned about the amount of waste from overuse of plastic packaging and discarded produce.
Produce which does not meet the colour, shape and size specifications are most often not put out on display for sale in our supermarkets and fruit and vegetable shops, and some does not even make it off the farms. Figures up to 50 percent are used for the amount of produce which is wasted each year in Australia, which makes it an easy waste to reduce.
Or you would think so!!!!
From the survey, 39 percent want imperfect produce accepted and placed for sale in supermarkets. When this expectation for supermarket acceptance of imperfect produce is broken down into age groups, 43 percent of those between 18 and 34, 39 percent of the 35-54 age group and 35 percent of the over 65s.
Across the states, it is the ACT at 60 percent of those surveyed who want this rejection stopped, whereas the lowest concern was shown by those from NSW at only 38 percent.
Woolworths have been running the “Odd Bunch” program since 2014 and Coles is about to commence a similar program. However the key to these programs and these survey results is this – do people actually buy the odd or imperfect produce when in the supermarkets or are they just speaking and not acting?
Are these results like the polls before the Federal Election this year, where people said one thing and then voted differently on the day? In other words, are people telling the truth when it comes to saying that they want to buy this produce. Only time will tell.
The overuse of plastic packaging rated higher at 53 percent of those surveyed wanting it stopped.
The results when broken down by age groups is almost the reverse of the imperfect produce with those in the 18-24 group at 39 percent and those over 65 at 63 percent. So it would seem that younger Australians are not as worried about excess plastic use as older generations.
The ACT was once again the most concerned at 73 percent and Victorians the least concerned with the overuse of plastic packaging at 48 percent.
Unlike imperfect produce, there are potential food safety issues with plastic packaging, so the key here is to have just enough to ensure food safety without using any excess.
Andrew Nash, food safety expert at SAI Global, says “Plastic is effective in protecting high risk foods, such as meat and dairy, from contamination through the millions of pathogens and microorganisms in the environment. Plastic, particularly if it’s shrink-wrapped, also helps prevent food from oxidising and spoiling quickly, and it is a good protectant from chemicals in the atmosphere. Dozens of people are likely to handle our foods through the entire supply chain process – including other shoppers. Supermarkets need to reduce the risks of cross-contamination. Plastic also assists to reduce food wastage by providing an extra layer of protection. For example, English cucumbers have a particularly thin skin and the tight plastic wrapping helps them to last longer in the fridge by acting as an insulator to protect against cold injury and also slows dehydration and spoilage.”
Here is something you probably did not know – we all have at least some degree of a eating disturbance called Neophobia.
This is the fear of trying new foods and a high level is common in children up to six years old and also the elderly.In fact we are all born with it.
In most adults the fear is lessened, but in some it remains at a high level.
There is a specific test used to identify just where each person is on the food neophobic scale, which involves rating the response to a series of 10 questions.
The following are the questions used in this test;
- I am constantly sampling new and different foods
- I don’t trust new foods
- If I don’t know what a food is, I won’t try it
- I like foods from different cultures
- Ethnic food looks too weird to eat
- At dinner parties, I will try new foods
- I am afraid to eat things I have never had before
- I am very particular about the foods I eat
- I will eat almost anything
- I like to try new ethnic restaurants
Besides limiting experiences, those with a high level of food neophobia or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) are also at risk of being nutritionally deficient, as they will not be consuming a wide variety of foods, and therefore nutrients.
There is a way of overcoming high level neophobia or ARFID.
Dr Byrne said “They can actually learn to like new foods by just trying them over and over again and getting to learn, to like, the taste,” she said.
The following are just some important food related dates in Australian history, you may not have known;
1944 – frozen vegetables processed in Australia for the first time
1947 – the Golden Circle cannery opened in Brisbane
1949 – the Australian classic ice cream, the Choc Wedge, was made for the first time
1958 – First beer cans in Australia and the, only to be found in the Northern Territory, Darwin Stubby introduced
1959 – Another classic ice cream, Gaytime, is launched
1957 – First Japanese restaurant in Australia
1957 – Chermside shopping mall was the first of it’s kind in Australia
1956 – Fish Fingers debuted in Australia
1950s – Sliced bread appears in Australia
1968 – KFC opened in Australia
1965 – Cask wine invented
1970 – Pizza Hut makes it’s first pizza in Australia
1971 – Australia gets it’s first McDonalds, and Hungry Jacks restaurants
1975 – Colour TV is first seen in the Land Down Under
1976 – first Thai restaurant in Australia
For more amazing Australian food history go to www.australianfoodtimeline.com.au
At regular times throughout each year the Health Ministers of all the Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand, as well as the Australian Local Government Association, meet to review recommendations from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and other food related matters.This is called The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) an is chaired by Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck.
The following are outcomes from the August 2019 meeting
- HEALTH STAR RATING FIVE-YEAR REVIEW
A formal five year review by independent reviewer, mpconsulting, was presented to the Forum Although it was recognised that there is increasing consumer use and understanding and the system is progressing well, there is still opportunity for improvement. The report from the review is publicly available on the Health Star Rating website
The Forum members will await recommendations and make a formal decision at the next meeting to be held in November.
- SUPPORTING THE PUBLIC HEALTH OBJECTIVES TO REDUCE CHRONIC DISEASE RELATED TO OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY
It was recognised by the Forum that more than Food Regulation is required to address the overweight and obesity problem in Australia and New Zealand.
So activities, like; setting compositional limits, advertising and marketing partnerships, development of a Policy guideline on food labelling and improved data collection. There will be ongoing consultation with all stakeholders.
- LABELLING OF SUGARS ON PACKAGED FOODS AND DRINKS
The Policy Paper: Labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks, prepared by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) was noted by the Forum and it was agreed to request FSANZ review added sugars in the nutrition labelling and that the use of pictures requires further consideration.
The paper is availableon the Food Regulation website
Education will be required with any label changes.
- FAST FOOD MENU BOARD LABELLING
Although this is already required in five jurisdictions and voluntary in new Zealand, it was agreed that the labelling needs to be nationally consistent and that a food regulatory measure is to be developed. A Ministerial Policy Guideline is to be developed as the first step and there will be ongoing consultation with stakeholders.
- FERMENTED BEVERAGES
A survey has revealed undeclared alcohol in some of these fermented beverages and therefore they may not comply with current liquor licensing legislation and Standards within the Code. The Forum members were updated on actions resulting from this survey.
- SALMONELLA ENTERIDITIS
An overview of the developing situation with Salmonella Enteritidis in Australia and the actions being undertaken across jurisdictions to limit the spread.
- Modernisation of the food regulation system
The updated Principles and Protocols for the Development of Food Regulation Policy Guidance was endorsed by the forum. This guidance focusses on making the current regulatory system more agile and timely.
- Energy labelling of alcoholic beverages
As alcoholic beverages are exempt from providing nutrition panels, there is no information about the energy contribution of alcohol to consumer’s diets.
The Forum agreed to ask FSANZ to include energy labelling in the work already being undertaken on alcohol labelling.
The next meeting will be held in November 2019.
International Bacon Day is rapidly approaching on 31 August, now is a great time to celebrate one of the world’s favourite meats.
So of course it is time to seek where the best bacon can be sourced in Australia
2019’s best bacon is from Western Australia and is a full rasher made by Princi Smallgoods.
It competed with more than 140 other entries from across the country
Pino Princi, director of Princi Smallgoods said; “Our recipe has travelled from Italy to Australia. What really sets our bacon apart though, I believe, is the quality of the pork that we begin with.”
Queensland is where you need to go to get the second best at Gray’s Modern Meat Mart in Toowoomba, and those in Canberra can pick up number three at the Griffith Butchery.
The state positions were jumbled in the short cut category, with Canberra getting the top gong, Queensland second and Western Australia taking the third spot.
Entries in this year’s competition were judged by raw and cooked.
Australian Pork’s Mitch Edwards said; “Many people are surprised to learn that 80 per cent of bacon sold in Australia is made using imported pork. If you want to support Aussie pig farmers, buy bacon made from 100 per cent Australian pork [and] look for the pink Australian Pork logo or make sure the bar chart on the country of origin label has a percentage of over 90 per cent of Australian ingredients.”
In the USA, the owner of a Meat Packing company is facing a possible five years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.
He is due to be sentenced in November after pleading guilty to submitting fraudulent test results.
The food business owner pleaded guilty to one count of making and using a false document. He admitted to falsifying 36 laboratory reports relating to 52 swabs taken from carcasses between November 2016 and September 2017.
The USDA’s requirement is that swabs for E.coli must be taken for every 300 slaughtered animals and tested by a certified laboratory.
The documents from the case show that no swabs were sent for testing as required.
The company involved may also face potential civil, administrative consequences.
This case and it’s consequences should be a wake up call to all food business owners and managers. There are significant penalties if documents are falsified or processes that need to be done are not. These consequences are not only for the business but the owners and the managers.
The following are food recall notices from Food Standards Australia New Zealand and are included here with permission
Noshu Sugar Free Fudgy Brownies Mix 300g
Noshu Foods is conducting a recall of ‘Noshu 99% Sugar Free Fudgy Brownies’ Mix. 300g. The product has been available for sale at Woolworths stores nationally.
‘Best Before’ 15JUL20A
The recall is due to possible presence of gluten, only in the product stamped with ‘Best Before 15JUL20A’. (Note: only the ‘Best Before’ ending in A)
Food safety hazard
The presence of gluten may cause illness if consumed.
Country of origin
What to do
Consumers should not eat this product and should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
For further information please contact (02) 8330 6706 or www.noshu.com.au.
Talley’s Mussels Garlic 375g
Logan Farm Pty Ltd is conducting a recall of Talley’s Mussels Garlic 375g. The product has been available for sale at Coles, Woolworths and independent stores including IGAs in WA.
Best Before 19 Dec 19
The recall is due to a potential for a low preservative content in the marinade which may pose a food safety risk.
Food safety hazard
Potentially contaminated food may cause illness if consumed.
Country of origin
What to do
Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice and should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. For further information please contact:
Logan Farm Pty Ltd
1800 651 276
The following Recall notice is from the New South Wales Food Authority and is included here with permission.
Naturli’ Spreadable Organic Vegan Spread and Funky Fields Organic Spreadable, 225g
The NSW Food Authority advises:
Botany International Foods is conducting a recall of the products below. The products have been available for sale at Coles, Woolworths and IGA’s nationally.
- Naturli’ Spreadable Organic Vegan Spread, 225g, Plastic tub, Batch Codes: 9080, 9084, 9094, 9135 and all Best Before dates
- Funky Fields Organic Spreadable, 225g, Plastic tub, Batch Codes: 9010, 9038 and all Best Before dates
Problem: The recall is due to the presence of an undeclared allergen (milk – specifically, whey protein).
Food safety hazard: Any consumers who have a milk allergy or intolerance may have a reaction if the product is consumed.
Country of origin: Denmark
What to do: Consumers who have a milk allergy or intolerance should not consume this product and should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. If you are concerned about your health, you should seek medical advice.
For further information please contact:
Botany International Foods
Ph: (02) 8824 4442
Salmonella hessarak is an very uncommon Salmonella species, which has now been identified as the bacteria involved in a South Australian outbreak from eggs from 2017 to 2018.
This species of Salmonella enters the egg during the formation of the egg, unlike other types of Salmonella which come from the digestive tract of the chicken and is therefore found on the outside of the shell.
52 residents of South Australia were part of the 96 notifications of Salmonella Hessarek nationally from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2016. 25 infections from this species were also from South Australia betweenMarch 2017 to July 2018.
Nine of these 25 cases were over the age of 71 and two pregnant women. Of the 25 cases, 10 required hospitalisation, and 24 of the cases reported that they ate eggs.
The subsequent investigation has pointed to eggs, and a specific brand, as an unusally strong suspect as the cause of this outbreak. This is a free range brand and the findings are supporting the recognition that due to the nature of free range there is much less control of movement and therefore a greater likelihood of Salmonella, and especially this species.
Ensuring that eggs, particularly for those in the high risk groups, is essentially at a consumer level, however all eggs should be purchased from reputable suppliers. These suppliers should be meeting specific food safety requirements in Australia, including; washing with chlorinated water, labelling and candling.
In food businesses, all staff, and especially Food Safety Supervisors, need to have an understanding of the potential food poisoning impacts of eggs and the controls needed to prevent these.
This finding of Salmonella hessarak is going to change the way that producers handle eggs in this country and the investigations of potential Salmonella outbreaks in the future.