It’s an egg problem; Salmonella spike in South Australia linked to television cooking shows? Blame the consumer

A spike in food poisoning cases has been linked to South Australians undercooking eggs at home.

The new cases have sparked warnings from health authorities to be wary of attempting techniques used on television cooking shows.

SA Health figures show 353 cases of potentially life-threatening salmonellosis have been reported throughout the state so far this year. That is about a third more than the number of cases – 267 – reported at the same time last year.

celebrity.chefsAbout 15 per cent of cases this year were hospitalised.

SA Health director of food safety and nutrition Dr Fay Jenkins said that while raw chicken and other meat can lead to salmonella poisoning, undercooked eggs were believed to be responsible for the recent increase.

“Millions of eggs are eaten each week,” she said. “It’s the exposure we have to eggs. There is nothing that has linked these cases to a restaurant or anything like that.

“We believe it is linked to the handling of eggs at home.”

Dr Jenkins warned against using such techniques as the 60/60 method of cooking eggs at a lower temperature of 60C for the longer timeframe of 60 minutes, a method featured on the inanely boring television cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.

How about cross-contamination or the ritualistic use of raw eggs in many Australian restaurants? You’ve heard it from Dr. Jenkins. It’s up to you, Australian consumers.

I habitually ask if the aioli or mayo is made at a restaurant using raw eggs, and then don’t touch it. But I don’t eat out that often anymore.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at

Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information

01.may.04, Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A., Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely.

During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel.

On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. 

Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

WTF? 524 now confirmed sick with Salmonella linked to Foster Farms chicken

This is why microbial food safety should be marketed so consumers have a choice.

As of April 7, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports a total of 524 people have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg from 25 states and Puerto Rico, since March 1, 2013.

Foster-Farms-Chicken-BreastCDC says it is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess interventions implemented at Foster Farms facilities to prevent future illnesses.

But people keep getting sick. And what are these interventions?

The lack of information, the lack of a recall despite continued illnesses, is sorta mind-numbing.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it.

Las Vegas’ Firefly has food safety problems again

In June 2013 Las Vegas’ Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar was linked to over 250 cases of salmonellosis. Investigators fingered cross-contaminated chorizo as the likely source. At the time of the outbreak owner Tabitha Simmons was quoted as saying, “It’s just sad because we’ve been vilified and we did not want anyone to get hurt. We certainly weren’t managing our restaurants poorly.” firefly-300x300

Uh huh.

According to Fox 5, Las Vegas health inspectors gave another Firefly location 38 inspection demerit points resulting in a C grade in March.

The owners of Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar acknowledged on Tuesday it received a “C” rating when inspectors for the Southern Nevada Health District inspected the eatery at 11261 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson on March 31.

Of the 38 demerits it incurred, Firefly was flagged for violations including those for handwashing, improper refrigeration of food, food improperly cooked at the proper temperature and failure to properly store food from potential contamination, according to SNHD’s website.

In a statement from Firefly owners John and Tabitha Simmons, the March 31 inspection was random. The owners also said the eatery was cited for 1-day-old expired food in the refrigerator.

The owners went on to say they corrected the violations within hours of the inspection. A subsequent inspection the following Friday, April 4, brought the restaurant’s rating back up to an “A,” the owners said on Tuesday.

Sure looks like they are managing their restaurants poorly, food safety-wise.

‘I wasn’t really informed’ spring chicks can bring Salmonella

Springtime and the approaching Easter holiday are causing concern among health officials.

This is the time of year people tend to buy chicks and ducklings for their backyard flocks. As a result, the number of people who become infected with salmonella spikes.

borat.chicken“While it’s fun for families to get baby birds, the bacteria they shed can make people sick,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington health officer, in a news release. “This is especially true for young children, who account for the largest proportion of live poultry-related salmonella cases.”

Last year, 19 people in Washington were part of a multistate outbreak of salmonella associated with handling live poultry. Thirteen of the cases involved children younger than 10.

One of those children was Liz Wilson of Yacolt.

Liz, who was 3 at the time, became infected with salmonella in April 2013 after her family purchased nine chicks and two ducklings from a local farm store.

The family, which includes nine kids ranging in age from 4 to 16, purchased the chicks to raise for eggs, said Liz’s mother, Denise Kaski. Her husband, David Kaski, had chickens in the past and knew what it took to raise the birds, but they weren’t aware of the salmonella risk, Denise Kaski said.

“I wasn’t really informed,” she said.

infection. “The first thing a very small child is going to want to do is give these cute little chickies a little kiss,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and health officer. “That’s not a good thing to do.”

On April 4, 2013, about a week after the family brought the chicks home, Liz became lethargic, started vomiting, had bloody diarrhea and wouldn’t chicken.south.parkeat. She couldn’t even keep down what she was given through a feeding tube that is used to supplement her diet, Kaski said.

Liz was taken by ambulance to Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. As doctors ran tests, Kaski started Googling Liz’s symptoms. She came across information about salmonella and told Liz’s doctor the family recently purchased chicks.

Liz has no lasting effects from the infection, but Kaski knows the situation could have been worse. The family got rid of the chickens, and Kaski warns others about Salmonella and the importance of hand-washing.

“I don’t want anybody else to have to get sick like that,” she said.

17 now sick with Salmonella from Welsh laverbread outbreak

Five new cases of Salmonella with possible links to laverbread have emerged in the past week bringing the total number to 17, said Public Health Wales.

Tests are continuing to confirm whether they are all linked to the outbreak, which has nine confirmed cases so far.

laverbreadCases have been reported across south and west Wales.

Three people have needed hospital treatment, but have been discharged.

Health officials said a study has confirmed a strong association with laverbread from Penclawdd Shellfish Processing Ltd, probably produced and distributed between 5 and 8 March.

Last week, the company voluntarily withdrew its laverbread from sale as a precaution.

Samples taken from its Swansea factory have not shown any evidence of Salmonella in either food or in the environment, said Public Health Wales.

Laverbread is the boiled and minced laver seaweed, often fried with bacon and cockles as a traditional Welsh breakfast dish. The seaweed is eaten worldwide, especially in Asia, and is often used in Japanese sushi dishes.

Australia still has an egg problem: farm linked to 220 Salmonella illnesses fires 5 workers, back in business

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 raw.egg_.mayo_.may_.13-300x221beachside cafe. He and his mother 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.

A stool sample taken from Ash confirmed he was infected with Salmonella causing gastroenteritis. The sandwich he ate at that cafe was prepared with mayonnaise made with free-range (but not microbiologically-safe) eggs.

Ash was one of about 220 people sickened with Salmonella linked to two Victoria, Australia, restaurants that were supplied by Green Eggs.

This week, the Victorian Health Department lifted a ban on raw egg products from the farm.

Media reports note that five workers were fired from the Green Eggs company last month.

Maybe they were the employees who didn’t have the Salmonella goggles.

And while an employee of the Victorian state government sent along its advice on using eggs — cook eggs until they are hot all the way through, but with no advice as to what hot all the way through actually means – the government utterly fails when it comes to enforcement.

Anyone who has been to an Australian restaurant will be offered a mayonnaise, salad dressing, béarnaise and hollandaise sauces, garlic.aioli_-300x300milkshakes with raw egg or an aioli dip that has been crafted by the chef using raw eggs, because no self-respecting chef would use a cooked product.

The Victorian government’s advice is that when in doubt, “read the label or get in touch with the manufacturer.”

There are no labels on those little containers of dip or the mayo on a sandwich. Good luck with that.

And why Australia continues to have an egg problem.

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

The longterm business impacts of an outbreak

Beyond the tragic longterm effects on health for the victims of an outbreak, issues associated with foodborne illness incidents can taint a business for a long time. Jack-in-the-box, Odwalla, Castleberry’s and others may have changed their processes and practices but the stigma from an outbreak can last years. Beyond public perception, internal and external investigations into the causes can continue to impact business for years. And lead to revenue losses, expensive changes and criminal action.images

On national peanut butter and jelly day, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, uh, chronicles Conagra’s responses to a 2007 Salmonella outbreak affecting over 280 individuals associated with the Peter Pan and Great Value brands.

Seven years after a recall of peanut butter made at a Georgia plant, federal investigations are still hanging over the head of ConAgra Foods Inc.

Following the recall, investigators searched the plant. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Georgia and the Consumer Protection Branch of the Department of Justice launched a formal investigation in 2011.

ConAgra (NYSE: CAG) reported today that it spent a total of $25 million in 2012 and 2013 in connection with the investigations.

“We have been and continue to be engaged in ongoing discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice in regard to the investigation,” ConAgra reported today. “We are pursuing a negotiated resolution, which we believe will likely involve a misdemeanor criminal disposition under the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act.”

Safer eggs: new technique uses radio waves to zap Salmonella

According to the Department of Agriculture, about one out of every 20,000 chicken eggs produced in the U.S. has a high risk of being contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Not all kinds of Salmonella are harmful, but some are, notably S. enteritidis, which has been associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs. This salm.egg.gevekeand other pathogenic Salmonella strains can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and—in some instances—death.

Those most vulnerable to salmonellosis are infants, preschoolers, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system.

Properly cooking chicken eggs—such as by hard-boiling them—kills Salmonella.

So does pasteurizing them. Right now, a hot-water-immersion process is apparently the only technique used commercially in this country to pasteurize fresh “shell” eggs (eggs that are sold in-the-shell, instead of as a liquid product, for example). Many supermarkets offer these eggs as a specialty item in their dairy case.

But the hour-long immersion process may change qualities of these raw eggs, perhaps making them less satisfactory to discerning home cooks and restaurant chefs alike. Studies led by Agricultural Research Service chemical engineer Dave Geveke have resulted in a better, faster way to pasteurize raw shell eggs without ruining their taste, texture, color, or other important characteristics.

Geveke’s tests with some 4,000 fresh shell eggs indicate that heating them with the energy from radio waves, or what’s known as radiofrequency (RF) heating, followed by a comparatively brief hot-water bath, can kill harmful microbes without lessening the quality of the treated eggs.

Each raw egg is positioned between two electrodes that send radio waves back and forth through it. Meantime, the egg is slowly rotated, and its shell is cooled by spraying it with water—to offset some of the heat created by the radio waves.

Unlike conventional heating, RF heating warms the egg from the inside out. That’s critical to the success of the process. It means that the dense, heat-tolerant yolk, at the center of the egg, receives more heat than the delicate, heat-sensitive white (albumen).

The hot-water bath comes next. The warmth of the bath helps the yolk retain heat, to complete the pasteurization. The heat from the water also pasteurizes the white, without overprocessing it.

From start to finish, the treatment takes around 20 minutes, making it about three times faster than the hot-water-immersion technique. And in tests using a research strain of Salmonella, Geveke showed that the RF-based process killed 99.999 percent of the Salmonella cells.

Before the treatment, Geveke’s team artificially infected the eggs by poking a small hole in the top of each, injecting the Salmonella into the egg via a glass syringe, then sealing the hole with a droplet of quick-setting epoxy glue. In nature, a hen’s eggs can become contaminated with Salmonella if her ovaries are infected with it.

The idea of using RF heating to kill pathogens in foods isn’t new. But using RF heating to kill pathogens in eggs is novel. And Geveke and his colleagues are evidently the first to pair RF heating with a hot-water bath to pasteurize raw shell eggs.

A provision of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code may contribute to growth of the raw-pasteurized-egg market. Already adopted by some states, the code specifies use of raw pasteurized eggs, or other pasteurized egg product, in place of unpasteurized eggs when foods such as Caesar salad are served to at-risk populations or to people who receive meals through “custodial care-giving environments” such as nursing homes, hospitals, or eldercare centers.

Though the specialty market is an obvious application of the RF-heating process, it could of course be used to pasteurize all of the more than 221 million fresh shell eggs produced in the United States every day. This would undoubtedly add to processors’ costs, but might be a convenience for shoppers and would add an extra margin of safety to all fresh shell eggs—not just the specialty product, Geveke points out.

Commercial use of the RF-based method is at least a year or so away. Geveke expects to begin pilot-scale tests this year. After that, regulatory approval would be needed. 

Survival of Salmonella during baking of peanut butter cookies

Peanuts and peanut-based products have been the source of recent Salmonella outbreaks worldwide. Because peanut butter is commonly used as an ingredient in baked goods, such as cookies, the potential risk of Salmonella remaining in these products after baking needs to be assessed. This research examines the potential hazard of Salmonella in peanut butter cookies when it is introduced via the peanut-derived ingredient.

The survival of Salmonella during the baking of peanut butter cookies was determined. Commercial, creamy-style peanut butter was artificially inoculated peanut.butter.cookieswith a five-strain Salmonella cocktail at a target concentration of 108 CFU/g. The inoculated peanut butter was then used to prepare peanut butter cookie dough following a standard recipe. Cookies were baked at 350°F (177°C) and were sampled after 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 min. Temperature profiles of the oven and cookies were monitored during baking. The water activity and pH of the inoculated and uninoculated peanut butter, raw dough, and baked cookies were measured. Immediately after baking, cookies were cooled, and the survival of Salmonella was determined by direct plating or enrichment. After baking cookies for 10 min, the minimum reduction of Salmonella observed was 4.8 log. In cookies baked for 13 and 14 min, Salmonella was only detectable by enrichment reflecting a Salmonella reduction in the range of 5.2 to 6.2 log.

Cookies baked for 15 min had no detectable Salmonella. Results of this study showed that proper baking will reduce Salmonella in peanut butter cookies by 5 log or more.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 4, April 2014, pp. 528-690 , pp. 635-639(5) ;

Lathrop, Amanda A; Taylor, Tiffany; Schnepf, James

Why Salmonella needs to be prevented and controlled; 1 million jars of peanut butter to be dumped in landfill

Nearly a million jars of peanut butter are being dumped at a New Mexico landfill to expedite the sale of a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a 2012 salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall.

Bankruptcy trustee Clarke Coll said he had no other choice after Costco Wholesale refused to take shipment of the Sunland Inc. product and declined requests to let it be sunland_20120925084929_320_240donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons.

“We considered all options,” Coll said. “They didn’t agree.”

Costco officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment. But court filings indicate the product was made with $2.8 million worth of Valencia peanuts owned by Costco and had been sitting in the warehouse since the company shut down and filed for bankruptcy last fall.

After extensive testing, Costco agreed to a court order authorizing the trustee to sell it the peanut butter. But after getting eight loads, Costco rejected it as “not merchantable” because of leaky peanut oil.

Coll said “all parties agreed there’s nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,” but court records show that on a March 19 conference call Costco said “it would not agree to any disposition … other than destruction.”

So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6 million, the estate is paying about $60,000 to haul the 950,000 jars of nut butter — or about 25 tons — to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it “will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt.”

The last of 58 truckloads was expected Friday, he said.