Lowering loads on the farm: Australia still has an egg problem

Introduction: Salmonellosis is a significant public health problem, with eggs frequently identified as a food vehicle during outbreak investigations.

raw.egg.mayo.may.13Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis are the two most frequently identified causes of egg-associated disease in industrialized countries. In Australia, a comprehensive review of egg-associated outbreaks has not been previously undertaken.

Methods: Using a national register of foodborne outbreaks, we undertook a descriptive review of egg-associated outbreaks between 2001 and 2011. Included in our review was additional detail from the findings of trace back investigations conducted to the farm level. Evidence classifications were developed and applied to each outbreak based on descriptive and analytical epidemiology, food safety investigations, and microbiological testing of clinical, food, and trace back-derived samples.eggs-for-sale-at-the-arab-market-of-jerusalems-old-city-in-israel-B1K785

Results: Over the study period, the proportion of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs increased significantly (p < 0.001). In total, 166 outbreaks were identified, with 90% caused by Salmonella Typhimurium. The majority of outbreaks were linked to commercial food providers, with raw egg use the major contributing factor. These events resulted in more than 3200 cases, more than 650 hospitalizations, and at least 4 deaths. Fifty-four percent of investigations used analytical epidemiology, food microbiology, and trace back microbiology to demonstrate links between human illness and eggs. Trace back investigations identified S. enterica indistinguishable from outbreak-associated clinical or food samples runny-egg-yolkson 50% of sampled egg farms.

Conclusion: Effective control of egg-associated salmonellosis remains a challenge in Australia, with Salmonella Typhimurium dominating as the causative serotype in outbreak events. Although outbreaks predominantly occur in the settings of restaurants, the high recovery rate of indistinguishable Salmonella on epidemiologically implicated egg farms suggests that further efforts to minimize infection pressure at the primary production level are needed in Australia.

Salmonella Typhimurium and Outbreaks of Egg-Associated Disease in Australia, 2001 to 2011

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease; March 2016; DOI: 10.1089/fpd.2015.2110


Culture of indifference; 220 sick from Salmonella in latest Australian egg outbreak; microbial food safety problems on rise

Australia has more than an egg problem – it has a microbial food safety problem.

And the public availability of food safety information is embarrassingly sparse, creating a culture of indifference.

As the number sickened by Salmonella linked to raw-egg based dishes at Torquay’s Bottle of Milk restaurant climbed to 220, OzFoodNet, the national foodborne disease monitoring American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper walking in streetnetwork, reports the number of Australians struck down by food poisoning has leapt almost 80 per cent in a decade and the number of outbreaks linked to restaurants has more than doubled.

In the decade to 2011, the number of Australians affected by foodborne gastroenteritis increased 79 per cent. In 2011, 150 outbreaks affected 2,241 people compared with 86 affecting 1,768 people in 2001. The rate of hospitalization has trebled since 2001.

The figures capture only a fraction of infections since most victims don’t go to a doctor, experts say. A 2002 estimate of people affected by food poisoning put the number at 5.4 million cases of gastro and 120 deaths a year at a cost of $1.25 billion.

Martyn Kirk, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Australian National University and former OzFoodNet senior epidemiologist, warns that any foods prepared without the bacterial ”kill step” of cooking increase the risk of bacteria spreading, and that Salmonella is linked to multiple food sources.

”It’s definitely not always the chicken … We’ve had outbreaks of salmonella linked to rockmelon, papaya, cucumbers – and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Raw or minimally cooked eggs are the single largest cause of foodborne illness in Australia. But fresh produce has been increasingly implicated in outbreaks as health-conscious raw.eggsconsumers favour salads, raw vegetables and minimally processed foods with lower salt and fat contents.

In the Bottle of Milk outbreak, suspect eggs were traced back to the Green Eggs farm in Great Western. Sales have been restricted until food safety is improved.

In recent days a handful of salmonella cases have also emerged among diners at St Kilda’s Newmarket Hotel, which had also sourced eggs from the Green Eggs farm.

Victorian chief health officer Rosemary Lester said other salmonella cases not linked to the two restaurants had also emerged and were being investigated.

Late last year, Piccalilli Catering was identified as the Brisbane catering company at the centre of another salmonella outbreak, which contributed to the death of one elderly lady and 220 others falling ill.

“We are deeply upset and distressed by this outcome. We always pride ourselves on sourcing the freshest Australian ingredients for our kitchens. We feel very disappointed bottle.of.milk.feb.14and let down that the normally reliable fresh food supply chain has failed us – and our clients – on this occasion,” Piccalilli Catering co-owner, Helen Grace, said at the time.

Until someone develops Salmonella-spotting goggles, Australian food service needs to use pasteurized eggs in homemade mayonnaise and aioli, or commercial sources. Having this conversation with an Australian restaurant chef is like walking into 1978.