38 sick: It was the relish at Melbourne Cricket Ground luncheon on Anzac Day

Health Times reports Australian investigators spent months trying to recreate dodgy relish that gave nearly 40 people gastro at an exclusive Melbourne Cricket Ground luncheon on Anzac Day.

Thirty-seven patrons and a staff member were left distressed and light-headed, with some fainting and going to hospital, after eating the quince and fig jam relish with barberries at the Essendon Football Club’s president lunch on April 25.

“It was a pretty dramatic foodborne outbreak,’ Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, told reporters on Tuesday after a three-month investigation into the incident.

Rabbit, chicken and pork terrine served with the relish was initially suspected to be the culprit

But after 109 interviews trawling through everything guests and staff members ate that day, the investigation found the relish was almost certainly to blame.
“In the fashion of a true foodborne mystery, it was the relish in the (MCG’s) Olympic Room at high noon on Anzac Day,” Dr Sutton said.

The investigation took three months in part because investigators were trying to recreate the relish under various conditions, but they were unsuccessful.

“Dehydrated barberries, barberries with boiling water, the relish refrigerated for three days, the relish left out, none of it allowed sufficient growth of bacteria that would have caused that illness,’ Dr Sutton said.

“I suspect that something in that relish, barberries or the fig jam, carried a toxin at the time and the boiling water that was used in the processing wasn’t sufficient to kill it.”

Seven people were taking to hospital after being struck down by the gastro but none required admission.

Add the correct amount of vinegar and check the pH

One of the roles I inherited when I came to North Carolina is organizing the judges for annual home food preservation competition at the State Fair. The fair has a long history in scoring entries based on color, consistency, shapes and in some categories, taste.

According to the fair organizers we’re one of a handful of state fairs that allow judges to taste entries. During the 2014 competition a couple of judges tasted a canned product that was supposed to be pickled. If acidified correctly the safe processing step would be a boiling water bath.

One of the judges, as seasoned veteran of the process said she couldn’t taste any vinegar. We tested the pH was and it was 6.1; a nice environment for bot toxin production.mustard-relish-recall

Someone probably forgot to add the vinegar. And that put a couple of volunteers at risk for a devastating illness.

Sort of sounds like what happened at HardyWares Preserves in Nova Scotia (that’s in Canada).

According to CBC news the small Maritime food processor is pulling their mustard relish from the market because they made a mistake. And didn’t likely add enough vinegar to reduce the chance of botulism.

Larry and Margaret Hardy, from Necum Teuch, are the co-owners of HardyWares Preserves. They sell jams, jellies and relishes that they make in their home kitchen.

Their 250-millilitre bottle of mustard relish, packaged on Dec. 3, 2015, is being recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because the relish could permit the growth of the bacteria that leads to botulism.

“It was a shock, an absolute shock. Because we’ve had nothing of this nature before,” said Larry Hardy.

Hardy said the agency didn’t tell him botulism toxin had been found in the product, but rather that the acid level of the relish was too low — which meant the bacteria could grow.

“It’s definitely human error, but my biggest guess is that I was busy and I was working away, and I probably put in not enough vinegar into the product,” he said.

“Whatever I did, I upset the balance of it.”

The Dec. 3 batch of mustard relish contained 21 jars. Hardy says he has accounted for all but 10. He sold them at the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market around Christmastime.