413 sick from Salmonella at UK street festival; FSA says wash curry leaves

With at least 413 people sick with Salmonella, apparently linked to uncooked curry leaves in a chutney served at the Street Spice festival in Newcastle in February and March, regulators decided July would be a good time to offer ridiculous advice and tell consumers to wash their curry leaves.

Even if cooked to piping or steaming hot – whatever useless adjective the Food Standards Agency and its crack staff and risk communication consultants are using this week – the advice imagesignores cross-contamination, fails to focus on a farm-to-fork food safety approach, and ignores that people tend not to wash their chutney when they buy it at a street festival.

I don’t like curry. I don’t like cooking with it, I have no idea what curry leaves are. But based on the herbs and produce I do know, washing is of little use – the contamination has to be prevented, beginning on the farm.

In reporting the outbreak, Public Health England tossed the ball over to FSA for advice because people – consumers, food service – really don’t understand the risk related to raw herbs and produce.

(Recite this with pinky pointed upwards).

“The Food Standards Agency is reminding those who eat or use fresh curry leaves in their dishes, to ensure that the leaves are washed thoroughly before use. “Cooking provides further assurance that these leaves are safe to eat.

“When using fresh curry leaves and other fresh herbs, it is important that they are sourced from a reputable supplier and are handled and stored correctly. If there are instructions for storage, preparation, handling and use on the label, these should be carefully followed.”

Who’s a reputable supplier?

Maybe one with a good food safety track record and sensible steps to reduce risk?

But how would consumers know if food safety isn’t marketed?

And if FSA is going to recommend washing, shouldn’t FSA provide some data to show this advice reduces risk?


413 sick with Salmonella after UK Street Spice festival

Herbs and spices seem particularly prone to contamination, especially with Salmonella.

This time, uncooked curry leaves in a chutney left more than 400 people who ate at a street food festival with diarrhea and vomiting or salmonella poisoning, health officials have found.

The leaves were contaminated with several different bacteria, experts found, which led to 29 confirmed cases of salmonella at the Street Spice Curry leavesfestival in Newcastle in February and March.

Why is the public only hearing about it now?

Oh, right, it’s the UK.

An investigation by Public Health England (PHE) and Newcastle city council found 25 of the 29 cases had developed a strain of salmonella never found in people or food in Britain before.

According to an official report, further laboratory analysis suggested other organisms may also have caused illness including E coli and shigella.

Some of the 413 affected were found to have more than one of these infections at the same time.

No one will face prosecution because there was seen to be a lack of clear advice about the dangers of using raw curry leaves in recipes, and in general hygiene levels at the three-day event were good.

Dr Kirsty Foster, chair of the outbreak control team and consultant in health protection with PHE, said, “However, herbs and spices are known to be potential sources of salmonella and other organisms, and have been reported in scientific literature as the source of infection in a number of outbreaks across the country.

“But it is unclear whether there is widespread understanding among food handlers and the public about the potential for infection when using these products raw.

“That is why we have reported our findings to the Food Standards Agency, recommending that advice is developed for the food industry and the public about the use of raw curry leaves.

“While this is being developed, our advice to the public is to cook curry leaves thoroughly if they are to be used in recipes and to be aware of the risk of infection if using them raw.”

Once again, HPA ignores the risk of cross contamination.