Australia still has an egg problem

I live in the Australian state of Queensland, which is four times the size of Texas and four times the attitude.

But being a good citizen and recently grandfathered in for voting rights because I’m from Canada, I thought I’d write the state minister of health, Lawrence Springborg.

mayonnaise.raw.eggOn Nov. 5, 2013, there was an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning at Melbourne Cup functions.

At least 220 people at 40 different Melbourne Cup events catered by the same Brisbane-based company, Piccalilli Catering, got sick with Salmonella. One died.

On Nov. 14, the co-owner of Piccalilli Catering released a statement via Twitter identifying her company as the responsible caterer and saying that they were deeply upset and distressed but denying responsibility, alleging that the infection was due to eggs provided by their supplier to make raw egg mayonnaise. Ms Grace denied any breakdown in her company’s quality system.

On Nov. 16, The Courier Mail reported the Director of Metro North Public Health, Dr Susan Vlack, as saying that “three or four” suspected contaminants were being looked at.

“We don’t have any definite proof that it is the eggs.” Dr Vlack said. “We don’t have the results to be able to say one way or the other. There are still a number of possibilities. It might take two, possibly three weeks.”

Since then, there has been no further update from Queensland Health and the initial Nov. 13 update has been erased from the Department’s website.

There’s some basic risk analysis questions here that should be answered to provide some level of confidence to Australian consumers:

• how did the outbreak happen;

• was this commodity sourced from a food safety accredited supplier;

• did handling by the caterer contribute to this outbreak;

• what is Queensland Health’s policy on use of raw eggs in dishes to be consumed raw;

• is this policy enforced;

• is the investigation closed and if so, why and when was it closed;

• will an outbreak investigation report be created and publicized;

• why was the previous update erased from the Department’s website and on whose authority; and,

• what is Queensland Health’s policy on providing information to the public.

It is in the best interests of both the public and the food industry that your Department respond promptly to such outbreaks demonstrating timeliness, transparency and critical detail. I have no confidence that your Department will follow through on the release of information should there be any similar outbreaks.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at

Yours sincerely,

Dr Douglas Powell

Former professor of food safety at Kansas State University, now residing in Brisbane.


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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time