160 sickened: Australian restaurant to face criminal charges for using raw egg mayo

Over a year after 160 people were sickened from Salmonella linked to raw egg mayonnaise, owners of the former Copa Brazilian restaurant have been charged with criminal offences over the largest salmonella outbreak in Canberra’s history.

mayonnaise.raw.eggMany diners who ate at the newly-opened all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue were left with salmonella poisoning, and the Canberra Hospital’s emergency department reportedly had one of its busiest days on record.

Some victims are understood to still be suffering long-term health problems. 

A major ACT Health investigation found an egg supplier in Victoria to be responsible for the bad eggs.

The restaurant, which had only recently opened before the incident, issued an apology to those affected and removed all products containing raw egg from its menu to ensure the poisoning was not repeated.

It closed voluntarily, before reopening under the close watch of ACT Health authorities.

But the restaurant eventually closed its doors and left Dickson in June this year.

A criminal case has now been launched against Copa’s owners, listed on court papers as Zeffirelli Pizza Restaurant Pty Ltd.

Two charges have been laid for selling unsafe food likely to cause physical harm.

Under ACT food safety law, those who either knowingly or negligently sell unsafe food can face criminal prosecution.

The criminal charges come after the majority of the food poisoning victims settled civil claims against the restaurant. 

Copa has paid out an estimated $1 million, including costs, to many of those struck down by salmonella. 

Australia has a raw egg problem. A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx

Raw eggs: Dubai dinner cruise cook jailed after 5 women fall ill with salmonella

A cook has been jailed for three months for risking the lives of five women who became sick with salmonella poisoning after serving them a bacteria-infected chocolate mousse at a dinner cruise.

chocolate mousseThe 42-year-old Indian cook, R.M., was said to have failed to store the chocolate mousse in an appropriately hygienic place before it got hit by the bacteria.

Then he endangered the lives of the five women, of different nationalities, who happened to be enjoying a group dinner on a floating restaurant at Dubai Marina when they consumed the contaminated sweet.

Dubai Municipality’s inspector testified to prosecutors that the chocolate mousse was unsuitable for human intake because it was infected with salmonella. The inspector mentioned in the report that the cook used unpasteurised eggs to make the chocolate mousse.

Individual stamps on every egg to trace Salmonella are a rotten idea, say small Australian egg producers

We went with another family to our favorite fish shop for dinner last night after an outing in the park with our daughters.

garlic_aioliThe restaurant owners know not to serve me the aioli which includes raw egg.

We’ve had that conversation.

ABC Rural reports that small-scale egg producers in New South Wales say compulsory stamps on every single egg are a rotten idea.

From November, NSW will follow Queensland to require all bought eggs to have stamps so any food poisoning outbreak like Salmonella can be traced back.

But small producers argue it would cost them up to $30,000 to install and manage the stamping equipment.

NSW Egg Farmers Association director Jo Damjanovic says if consumers get sick, it’s easier to trace the cartons than eggs.

“The egg would be used up by the consumer, the egg shell would be thrown in the rubbish and the traceability would be thrown in the rubbish as well.

“It’s just ridiculous to think you can jigsaw-puzzle a piece of eggshell back together to figure out where that egg came from.”

The NSW Government says egg producers have had two years to prepare for the new national standards and there are exemptions for micro egg producers, those who turn out 1,000 eggs a day or 20 dozen a week.

Eggs sold at the farm gate also will not require a stamp, nor will those sold for charity.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson says eggs are one of the leading sources of Salmonella.

“Between 2010 and 2014, there were 40 food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs, affecting more than 700 people.”

But Mr Damjanovic says a report he commissioned to assess the Regulatory Impact Statement found there has been no improved traceback in Queensland, where they’ve been stamping eggs since 2005.

Food safety, Salmonella, sprouts and no, that dingo didn’t eat my baby

We used to be known as, “The no sprouts people.”

If Amy or I ordered anything, we’d say, no sprouts please.

sprouts.sorenne.jul.14We fell out of that habit because so much of foodservice in the U.S. has removed raw sprouts from the menu.

But it’s still 1978 in Australia.

With two weeks of school holidays, we decided on a mild road trip north to explore more of the country than the 15km radius we could reach by bicycle (yes, I know it’s not far, but is when hauling a kid in a trailer).

We spent three days at Rainbow Beach, including a day trip to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. Our guide had been a chef for over 20 years and said, no more, gotta get back to what he loves, and that was hanging out on the Island.

We saw whales and four different dingoes going for bait from fishers; they didn’t eat any babies but we know a lot more about dingo safety.

Next stop: Hervey Bay, a renowned area for sea scallops and purportedly the best whale watching in Australia.

indulge.cafe.bundaburgWe arrived tired and went to a restaurant at lunch that had fabulous seafood, but raw sprouts on every dish.

We had forgotten we were the no-sprouts family, although I did have a word with the server on the way out.

Next, Bundaberg, sugar cane and rum capital of Australia, with a slavery past that has now somewhat transformed to a mixture of hippies and bogans.

Amy had looked on-line, and decided where we were going to lunch.

I placed the order, and the server explained all the food was local and naturally sourced. I internally groaned and rolled my eyes.

Then I remembered I needed some tomato sauce —  what North Americans would call ketchup – for the kid.

dingo.beach“Oh, you don’t want the aioli?”

“No, wait, can you tell me how the aioli is made? Does it contain raw eggs?”

Oh yeah, everything here is made from scratch, but I’ll check.”

Thirty seconds later, the chef appeared.

“We only use commercial mayonnaise for mayo and aioli. Everything else we make from scratch but not this one.”


Because my brother was one of the 220 that got sick from Salmonella from raw-egg mayo on Melbourne Cup day in Brisbane in 2013. And I’m not putting my business at risk over one decision that is easy to make.

Good on ya.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Action vs complacency; a tale of two eggs, raw and pasteurized, US and Australia

After at least 30 people were sickened with Salmonella linked to Fuego’s Tortilla Grill in College Station, Texas, the restaurant has decided to start using pasteurized eggs.

mayonnaise.raw_.egg_-300x225Since receiving the news that four of the 36 samples taken at the restaurant on May 13 tested positive for a strain of Salmonella, owner Paul Moler has reinforced safe food practices in the kitchen and imposed changes in food handling, which include the use of pasteurized eggs instead of the fresh, shelled eggs he believes to be the culprit.

“You’re thinking you’re doing the best you can do and taking all the precautions and measures. When something like this happens, it’s pretty devastating,” Moler said.

“It’s devastating that we voluntarily closed the doors, and that was enough to face on its own, but that there were actually people out there that had gotten sick because of us — that is horrible,” he added.

The health department has yet to determine the specific source of the illness, but Texas Department of State Health officials will return to the local eatery to do a follow-up swab in two weeks, said Sara Mendez with the Brazos County Health Department. Local health officials inspected the restaurant before it reopened last weekend.

Compare that response to an outbreak in Canberra, Australia, in Dec. 2011, linked to raw egg mayonnaise served by the then popular Silo Bakery, which sickened at least 22 people.

In the aftermath of the outbreak, Silo co-owner Leanne Gray said officials have advised buying commercial mayonnaise or using pasteurized eggs. Her response: “That’s the foulest thing you’ve ever seen, so I said no, I won’t.

The problem with raw eggs in food service is that they are pooled. Only 1-in-20,000 eggs may be Salmonella-positive, but when making large batches of mayonnaise or aioli, that may involve 100 eggs, that risk estimation changes to 1-in-200.

fuegoIn North America, I found pasteurized eggs available at most large supermarkets.

But that may be changing, as the Washington Post reports difficulty in finding pasteurized whole eggs or pasteurized liquid egg whites at area supermarkets.

Pasteurization heats the egg to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, but does not cook it or significantly affect its color, flavor, nutritional value, or use. The times, temperatures, and methods used to pasteurize eggs and egg products vary. One method heats shell eggs to 57.5°C (135°F) for 25 minutes using a water bath (Hou et al, 1996). New research is investigating the use of radio frequency energy to pasteurize shell eggs.  In Australia, standards for pasteurization of egg products are defined by Standard 1.6.2 in the Food Standards Code.  The Food Standards Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency define and regulate pasteurization requirements for the UK and Canada, respectively.

The yolk needs more heat than the white to kill bacteria, so specialized equipment is needed to reach a high enough temperature in the yolk without cooking the white. This special equipment is not available to consumers, so it is not recommended to pasteurize eggs at home.

Pasteurized whole out-of-shell eggs are not readily available in Europe or Canada for the general public, but are mostly sold in liquid form for wholesale and food service. The U.K. vaccinates hens to help prevent Salmonella contamination, and eggs from these hens are marked with the Lion mark.

In the U.S., shell eggs can also be pasteurized and are available to consumers. These are eggs that have been pasteurized without removing them from their shells. Although they are not available in all stores, pasteurized shell eggs are clearly labeled. One brand stamps a red “P” on the shell.

Pasteurized shell eggs are not currently available to the general public in the U.K., Canada, or Australia.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

I wrote the Queensland Minister of Health to express my concerns a month ago, after 220 people were sickened and one died from Salmonella in raw egg dishes served at catered functions for the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5, 2013.

No response.

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 https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx

Yours sincerely,

Dr Douglas Powell

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




Australia only now coming to grips with food safety basics

Ash Lewis was limp in his mother’s arms. The three-year-old boy had been sick for several days, in and out of the family doctor’s surgery and up all night with diarrhea.

That Sunday he had been happily playing on the beach at Torquay on Victoria’s west coast and later munching on an egg and cheese roll at a beachside cafe. He and his garlic.aiolimother had left Melbourne to escape February’s heatwave.

By Thursday his condition had gone downhill fast. He stopped speaking and couldn’t walk. His parents, Scott and Sarina Lewis, rushed him to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. His blood pressure was down, his heart rate was low and his face was the ”colour of concrete.”

From the happy little boy playing in the sea he was now in hospital with an IV drip in his arm.

An estimate by the federal Department of Health puts the number of Australians contracting food-borne illness at 5.4 million cases, or nearly one in four, with 120 people so seriously affected they die. The cost to the economy has been put at $1.25 billion.

Richard Cornish of Good Food writes that incidents involving Salmonella have almost doubled in the past 10 years, from 6,990 in 2003 to 12,836 in 2013. In Brisbane last year, 220 people became ill and one elderly woman died after a Melbourne Cup lunch. The finger was pointed at raw egg mayonnaise contaminated with salmonella. In 2010, salmonella-contaminated aioli made with raw egg was found to be the cause of an outbreak in a hamburger bar that struck down 179 people

A stool sample taken from Ash confirmed he was infected with Salmonella bacteria causing gastroenteritis. The sandwich he ate at that cafe was prepared with mayonnaise made with free-range eggs. Owners of the cafe we spoke to believe this is the most likely cause of the food poisoning.

Brett Graham is the co-owner of the Bottle of Milk in Torquay. At the time of writing his cafe was still closed, three weeks after the food poisoning outbreak was identified. He has scrubbed his business from floor to ceiling, spent $20,000 rebuilding the kitchen, complete raw.egg.mayo.may.13with new fridges and dishwashers, and installed a window so diners can look in. “No one intentionally tries to make someone sick. I, we [he has a business partner], we feel terrible,” he says. “It’s a small town and a lot of people we know personally have been affected.”

The business is still paying their staff of 20.

Seventy-seven diners who fell ill after eating at Canberra restaurant Copa Brazilian Churrasco last year are at present taking civil action against its owners in the ACT Supreme Court. A total of 140 people fell ill, with 15 taken to hospital, after eating home-made mayonnaise at the restaurant in May last year.

Here’s a tip: don’t use raw eggs.

Why won’t Australian government or industry or consumer groups make such a basic statement, and actively promote the message? Instead, consumers are told it’s their fault when they buy a sandwich made with raw egg mayo and get sick. And consumers pay for such terrible messages with tax dollars.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Bored foodies hip to raw egg cocktails

Who doesn’t remember a gritty Rocky downing six raw eggs every morning to build up protein levels as part of his training regime (probably anyone younger than me).

Now, raw eggs are becoming a hit for cocktail connoisseurs.

M. Carrie Allan writes in The Washington Post that raw eggs turn up in many delicious cocktails: whole in flips and eggnogs, in pale heads of egg-white froth in drinks such as Rocky-Eggsthe pisco sour and the Ramos Gin Fizz.

The American Egg Board’s Elisa Maloberti told Allan, “We do not recommend the consumption of raw eggs.” Nor, she said are they aware of research that shows alcohol kills salmonella.

32 sickened in Mich. Salmonella outbreak; no exact cause though raw eggs likely; restaurant owners ‘deeply disappointed’ in report

The final report on the salmonella outbreak that affected at least 32 residents in Muskegon and Ottawa counties last year, according to Michigan Live, lists no precise reason for the incident.

The 68-page document released by Public Health-Muskegon County this month formed nine hypotheses and suggested raw eggs, cross contamination or poor food handling were likely the cause of the outbreak mayonnaise.raw.eggthat affected patrons and employees at Pints & Quarts Pub and Grill and C.F. Prime Chophouse and Wine Bar between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2.

Investigators said the restaurants’ salads — including those with grilled chicken — and Pints & Quarts’ Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer were strongly associated with the illness.

The epidemiological investigation began on Nov. 8 and included a case-control study to determine the extent of the outbreak, the associated risk-factors and the necessary steps to control and prevent further infection.

The department interviewed 121 people. Nearly 60 people represented either confirmed cases or probable, unconfirmed cases and about 60 more represented the study’s “controls,” — those who dined out but did not get sick during the four-day exposure period.

The owners of the Roosevelt Park-based, Harris Hospitality-owned eateries said in a statement on Friday, Jan. 24 that they were “deeply disappointed” by the report’s findings.

Restaurant manager and owner Andy Harris said the company reviewed the document “in great detail” and characterized it as “repeatedly critical” of its policies and procedures leaving the reader with the impression that it did something wrong to make people sick.

Harris said management was frustrated the agency could not pinpoint a precise origin of the outbreak and said it should have concluded that raw eggs were to blame.

“We deeply regret that anyone was made ill eating at one of our restaurants,” Harris said. “However, the fault lies with the use of already-contaminated eggs and not with any of our food-handling practices or procedures.”

Restaurant spokeswoman Mary Ann Sabo said she did not know the name of the supplier.

The final report noted that raw eggs were used in the restaurants’ original Caesar and Citrus salad dressings and its béarnaise sauce, a classic French condiment made with butter and spices. Harris said the company has since modified the salad dressing recipes to exclude eggs.

The restaurants are allowed to use the raw eggs in condiments under the Michigan Modified Food Code of 2009 and its menus had noted the risks associated with consumption, he said.