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.