OMG: safe food Queensland says raw eggs risky (sorta)

The Melbourne Cup horse race starts in a couple of hours and the twitter-comms types at safe food Queensland have said something, in writing, I’ve never seen before:

omg“Avoid eating raw foods such as salad dressings and sauces made with raw eggs e.g. mayonnaise, hollandaise and aioli or uncooked foods containing raw eggs e.g. cookie dough, mousse, cheesecake, tiramisu.

“Check to see if sauces or salad dressings are pasteurized.”

About time.

The safe food advisory also contains poor attempts at humor such as, “It’s the race that stops a nation so don’t let food poisoning have you galloping!”


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.


Austrailia Salmonella victims ‘extremely sick’

Got some sandcrab, shrimp and tuna from my fish monger for our weekend dining (although last night it was pizza in the park with friends).

In both cases, the Salmonella in raw egg mayonnaise entered the discussion, and what I found startling in this completely unscientific seafood.sandcrab.nov.13survey was that people believed it was not the fault of the caterer for using raw eggs but that somehow a bad batch of eggs caused at least 220 to get sick and one death.

I tried to explain that mere mortals do not have Salmonella goggles, and that Salmonella happens, and since it happens monthly in Australia, cooks that are preparing large batches of mayonnaise or aioli (and therefore using a large number of eggs, therefore increasing the probability of a Salmonella contamination) should use pasteurized eggs or commercial mayonnaise.

No self-respecting Aussie will apparently do that, to which I reply, is it really worth dying or going bankrupt over a dip?

Notice that no one says, use pasteurized eggs.

A table of raw egg outbreaks in Australia is available at

220 sick, 1 dead in Brisbane Salmonella outbreak

I was in Seattle last week for my new job and someone asked about public awareness of foodborne illness in Australia. I said they are at least 20 years behind the U.S. and 10 years behind Canada.

I don’t make such assessments lightly – but when 49 people, mainly kids, get sick with E. coli O57:H7 at the Brisbane state fair petting zoo in Sept. and there is absolutely no follow-up, I have in saying Australia sucks when it comes to public awareness of foodborne illness.

The Melbourne Cup is like the Kentucky Derby in Australia, signifying spring and women in outrageous hats. The nation stops.

Or vomits.

According to the Brisbane Times, one woman has died and hundreds of others have reported illness after a Salmonella outbreak linked to a Brisbane catering company serving Melbourne Cup related functions on Nov. 5, 2013.

The company, which has not been named by Queensland Health or the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, provided the catering for 40 different Melbourne Cup functions last week.

At least 220 people have reported being sick and a 77-year-old woman’s death has been linked to the food poisoning outbreak.

My uniformed guess, knowing nothing about the outbreak, is raw eggs used in an aioli or mayonnaise dip; because Australia has an egg problem.

Australian day of outrageous hats; Melbourne Cup 2012

The Melbourne Cup, which launches spring in Australia, is not only for the fancy-pants set like the Kentucky Derby; the entire country shuts down and people dress outrageously; like Amy, as we shop for safe food today.

She apparently enjoyed the glooming portrait of Curtis Stone in the background. Video here: