264 sickened: Who’s to blame then? Brisbane ignores raw egg risk

Brisbane likes to think of itself as a bloomin’ metropolis (sorta like the onion), but its food safety politics are based in the old west, with its voluntary disclosure of restaurant inspection reports – 2 stars out of 5, I just won’t post it – and ridiculous number of raw-egg based Salmonella outbreaks.

regulators-younggunmountupIn Feb., 2015, 254 people, mostly state school principals, fell ill and 24 people were admitted to hospital after eating at an education conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition. A subsequent meeting sickened a few more people.

In Nov. 2015, The Courier-Mail reported that a kitchen stick blender contaminated with Salmonella was the source of the outbreak.

Documents showed that investigators examining the outbreak found bacteria on several kitchen utensils, with that bacteria “incubated’’ during the cooking process.

Test results from the investigation showed the people who fell ill were sick with the same strain of salmonella found on a kitchen stick blender “which demonstrates the source of the outbreak”.

bloomin.onionThe documents rule out the possibility the outbreak was caused by eggs being contaminated before they arrived at the convention centre.

“(Redacted) suggested that if the eggs were contaminated when they arrived, that this was the cause, however I advised … that poor cleaning and sanitising of the stick blender was the ultimate cause,’’ the documents say.

“(Redacted) questioned why the Sal. was not killed during the cooking process of the bread butter pudding. I advised that the QH microbiologist suggest that 140deg was not hot enough to kill Sal, but rather it was an incubation temp.’’

Brisbane City Council is now considering prosecuting the operators, with a decision due by the end of this year.

Today it was announced the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre will avoid prosecution after an investigation found no evidence the eggs that had been identified as a possible source of the outbreak were, in fact, responsible.

A Brisbane City Council investigation has found there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution against the BCEC.

Brisbane lifestyle division chairman Krista Adams said a review of the investigation had found the prospect of a successful prosecution against the BCEC, which would cost ratepayers about $400,000, was “poor”.

“Council commissioned an independent review of the investigation which found that not everyone who tested positive for the salmonella strain consumed the suspect foods, which cast doubt as to the origin of the contamination.

Have any of you ever heard of cross-contamination?

A council spokesman supplied the following summary of the council’s legal advice:

There is no evidence that the eggs used by BCEC in the preparation of the suspect food were contaminated.

While a possible source of contamination may have been the stick blender, there is currently no evidence that the stick blender was used for the creation of the suspect food.

There is no evidence to discount the possibility that the stick blender was used in the preparation of other food on the same day which was not contaminated.

There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the contamination was in food prepared and served to the attendees by BCEC at their respective functions.

All of the evidence shows that BCEC has an exemplary record in keeping its kitchens clean and free of contamination and using proper handling and processing techniques to appropriately minimize contamination risks.

A court is more likely to find that the contamination resulted from a factor or factors beyond the reasonable control of the BCEC.

Bullshit

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Yes, Brisbane is still a cow town but we’re not that dumb.

As I’ve said from the beginning, if BCEC wants anyone’s business, they should come clean and make a full public accounting of the dishes and ingredients served to principals instead of some legal nonsense with council.

It’s a simple thing: were raw eggs used in any of your sauces or dishes?

They won’t publicly answer.

And it’s not like there aren’t alternatives.

John O’Hara, CEO of leading egg provider Sunny Queen Meal Solutions, said caterers need to feel confident in the product they serve, not only during the festive season, but all year round.

“Caterers, meal providers and food service organisations are encouraged to research and ensure food comes from reputable sources where stringent food safety protocols are in place,” he said.

“Even when your own safety procedures are by the book, when it comes to the health of your guests and your ongoing reputation, it is important to be confident about the product you are serving.”

O’Hara said Sunny Queen prides itself on its quality assurance and food safety programs, and recommends that customers ask their suppliers detailed questions about their QA protocols.

He said manufacturers and suppliers should be transparent about their food safety procedures.

“Sunny Queen is proud of its quality management system, which includes sanitation and cleaning procedures, pest control programs, precise cooking protocols, microbiological testing and traceability systems.

“Sunny Queen Meal Solutions uses real eggs, laid on Sunny Queen farms, and they are all fully cooked or pasteurised, eliminating the need to use raw eggs so real egg dishes can be served with confidence.

“Food safety doesn’t have to be daunting, it just needs diligence. Eggs are an incredibly versatile, nutrient-rich food source, making them the perfect choice for meal providers and caterers.”

Good on ya.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-2-15.xlsx