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?