Why does Australia have these huge outbreaks? And an egg problem? 250 now sick from principals’ conference

The number of people who have been struck down by food poisoning since eating at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre last week as part of a principals conference has jumped to 250.

salmonella.eggsThe cases are spread across Queensland with the highest numbers in Cairns and the Sunshine Coast with 34 cases reported in each of those regions.

About 1400 people descended on the venue for the conference on Thursday and Friday last week.

The outbreak is the second worst case of salmonella poisoning in the state’s history.

The worst was in November 2013 from a Melbourne Cup function with 350 reported cases and 12 hospitalizations.

A 77-year-old women’s death was linked to that outbreak which was suspected to have been caused by bad eggs.

An outbreak of Salmonella in January this year from deep fried ice cream at Chin Chin restaurant (it was the eggs) led to 141 cases with at least eight people hospitalized.

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\

2 dead, 29 sick at aged-care: Australia apparently sucks at Salmonella control

Public health authorities are concerned after two new cases of Salmonella emerged at aged care facilities in the Illawarra this week, bringing the total number of patients to 31.

salmonella.aged.care.austLast week authorities were hopeful the outbreak of the food-borne illness at 10 facilities in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, south-eastern Sydney and the ACT had been contained.

Two elderly residents have died and 16 residents have been hospitalised after contracting a rare strain of salmonella, with the onset of the first case on January 21.

Australia still has an egg (food porn) problem: Former partner of MKR judge investigated after food poisoning incident at Double Bay Public School

The story below from the Wentworth Courier gives a taste of the disdain and food porn that permeates Australian egg culture.

mayonnaise.raw.eggA table of egg-based Salmonella outbreaks is available here.

The former partner of TV chef Manu Feildel has been implicated in a Salmonella poisoning incident at the Double Bay Public School’s Year 6 farewell event.

The incident, which occurred in December 2014, has since been the subject of a NSW Food Authority and NSW Health investigation.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said an investigation had linked the salmonella outbreak “to a raw egg sauce served”.

“The NSW Food Authority has worked with the home-based catering business involved … and provided the operator with advice, guidance and information in relation to food safety requirements.”

Ronnie Morshead, Feildel’s partner for more than a decade and the owner-operator of Red Sage Catering which catered the function, said yesterday she had sent the Food Authority’s findings on to the school’s principal Andrea Garling.

“I believe the school is still waiting on an official report from the director of public health (Mark Ferson),” Ms Morshead said.

“But I understand, as far as (Professor Ferson) was concerned the whole (investigation) was complete.”

Last week, the Courier published details of six confirmed cases of salmonella following the farewell.

Prof Ferson, the South East Sydney Local Health District public health director, said on Monday that “more than six people were affected”, but as the Food Authority had completed its investigation, there was no need for him to conduct ­interviews with other victims.

A parent, who did not want their name published, said upwards of 25 people had fallen ill, including their own child who was still yet to fully recover.

raw.egg.mayo“How can there have been a thorough investigation when not every body has been interviewed?” the parent said.

“There’s talk of reimbursing medical bills but this is so much more than that. What about all that unnecessary suffering?” Prof Ferson said his ­department had identified the farewell event as the source of a salmonella outbreak after receiving ­unusual lab results.

The school has declined to comment and has directed questions to the NSW Education Department.

A spokesman did not ­respond to the Courier’s questions yesterday.

New Food Safety Infosheet: Hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen berries in Australia

Australian public health officials have identified an outbreak of hepatitis A and linked illnesses to consuming Nanna’s frozen berries sold by Patties Foods.

Food safety infosheet highlights:

–  Health officials have confirmed 20 illnesses to date.

– The berries were produced by Patties Foods, which has issued a recall on three products.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.13.39 PM

– Officials expect cases to increase as the incubation period of the virus ranges from 15-50 days and those who are infected may not yet be showing symptoms.

Click here to download the food safety infosheet.

Going public: Signs of Australian hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries month before public disclosure

Australian health types should be further embarrassed by their lack of disclosure, public notification and political pandering after it was revealed today that the first case of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries was diagnosed on January 3 but it took more than a month to recall the berries from supermarkets.

266570-ed20eaa0-b5e3-11e4-89a7-658c9eaa89c0Senate Estimates has been told there were three cases of Hepatitis A diagnosed in Victoria between January 3 and February 6.

Experts investigated to find a common link between the affected patients and identified the common factor as Nanna’s 1kg frozen mixed berries.

This meant it was not until February 12 that Ausfoodnet Victoria informed a national network of food regulators of the three cases.

It then took another two days before food company Patties announced a voluntary recall of the berries from supermarket shelves on February 14.

It was not until February 17 the government set up a national incident room to deal with the outbreak which has now spread to 18 people.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Baggoley said before the incident room was set up, epidemiologists and other experts in food safety were already working on containing the Hepatitis outbreak.


Raw milk in the same fridge as pasteurized at Banana Joe’s supermarket in Sydney

While the Australian state of Victoria has taking steps to limit the sale of bath milk, linked to a child’s death and three other cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, the stuff was found on sale yesterday alongside regular milk in a Sydney supermarket (that’s in the state of New South Wales).

raw.milk.banana.joes.feb.15Banana Joe’s supermarket in Marrickville was yesterday selling raw milk alongside ­pasteurized products.

The milk, Cleopatra’s Bath Milk, retails for $8.73 for a two liter bottle and is labeled “cosmetic skin treatment only”.

Despite displaying this ­legally required warning, the raw milk is packaged almost identically to regular milk and was displayed in the same fridge as other milk products.

The store manager, who gave his name as AJ, had “no concerns at this time” selling the products in the same fridge as regular milk as they were not on the same shelf.

He said he had ordered the milk in at the request of a ­customer but added that he had only sold “one or two bottles.”

Coles.perth.raw.goats milkA Coles supermarket in Western Australia was found to be selling unpasteurized goat’s milk, according to an intrepid reader, which has, I’ve been told, since been removed.



Some supply chain: Organic café in Australia closed after reports of insect contamination, food from unlicensed suppliers

Health inspectors have ordered the closure of the cafe at Petty’s Orchard after complaints of something a little too natural in its baked goods.

yarraorganics1Manningham Council demanded an immediate shutdown of the rustic Yarra Organics cafe, run by John and Nancy Mustafa, in response to a complaint about insect contamination in food.

Council officers visited the heritage cafe, which sold organic pies, pasties, cakes, biscuits and coffees, and found that food sold there had been bought from unregistered businesses and was in breach of food safety standards.

Council chief executive Joe Carbone said officers were only recently made aware of the cafe, which according to reviews online, has been open since at least June 2012.

The family, which has run the apple orchard for more than 15 years, said no food was prepared on site — and there wasn’t even a kitchen.

“We have been forced to close the cafe when we do not even operate an oven or stove on the premises,” Mrs Mustafa said.

“It’s affected our reputation and it’s been a great loss.’’

The Petty’s Orchard Templestowe Facebook page has called on the public to complain to the council about the closure.

Petty’s Orchard Templestowe

“Petty’s organic apple farm has just been closed down by Manningham city council templestowe because of having a café on premises. Please help by sending a complaint to manningham.vic.gov.au/ PLEASE SHARE AND HELP THE FIGHT!!”

Petty’s is one of Melbourne’s oldest commercial orchards and is on land owned by Parks Victoria.

Hepatitis A, vaccination, handwashing and all that stuff: we all need someone we can lean on

My latest from Texas A&M’s Center for Food Safety:

I experimented in university.

powell's.food.safety.world.feb.15Who didn’t?

My experiments in the 1980s involved tomato plants, Verticillium resistance, using a midwife to deliver our children, and saying no to the pertussis vaccine.

My ex-wife and I prided ourselves on our evidence-based approach to things, but as pertussis vaccine safety improved, so has my advice to the two oldest kids who have kids of their own: (or are about to): get vaccinated.

A couple of weeks after U.S. Senator Bozo declared that handwashing in food service places like Starbucks could be voluntary, I’ve contemplated that position and concluded sure: with a couple of conditions.

I co-wrote a paper that declared food safety inspections and audits were not enough.

What I have always said is this: government inspections are a minimal standard but necessary to hucksters accountable. The best will always go above and beyond what is expected.

Consumers should seek out those who market microbial food safety and steer clear of hucksterism.

But retailers are reluctant to market food safety.

And it’s the retailers who are the burden in this food safety stuff: they preach but they don’t practice.

In addition to the personal tragedies, every outbreak raises questions about risk and personal choice.

It’s true that choice is a good thing. People make risk-benefit decisions daily by smoking, drinking, driving, and especially in Brisbane, cycling.

But information is hard to come by.

I went to a supermarket in Brisbane, after taking my daughter to school, and was shocked to find Nanna’s berries – those linked to a growing hepatitis A outbreak — on the frozen shelves.

I asked the woman at checkout, weren’t those berries recalled?

nannas-rasberriesShe said, only the mixed ones.

I said, the raspberries and blueberries you’re selling are coming from the same source.

She shrugged and said, not in the recall.

They were recalled the next day.

With at least 14 Australians now confirmed ill with hepatitis A from frozen berries apparently grown in China, the case presents a microcosm of intersecting interests of global food, vaccination fears, poor handwashing and xenophobia (which Australians are particularly good at; as John Oliver said, “Australia is one of the most comfortably racist places I’ve ever been in. They’ve really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper”).

The complacency of Australian regulators is astounding when compared to other Western-style food safety agencies.

There was limited notice of the recall from state and federal food safety agencies until they all turned up for work on Monday: people eat seven days a week.

The company involved, Patties Foods in Bairnsdale in regional Victoria, repacks frozen berries grown who knows where (China and Chile in this case, apparently).

For those worried about Hepatitis A:

  • Get vaccinated. It’s been mandatory in Canada and several U.S. states for five years. It was mandatory for us to emigrate to Australia four years ago. It should be mandatory for locals. If I ran a restaurant, I’d want everyone to be vaccinated.
  • Wash your hands. Hepatitis A is one of the few foodborne diseases that is only spread human-to-human. And, like most foodborne illness, it’s fecal-oral. The typical U.S. scenario is a 20-something goes to Mexico or the Dominican for a friends wedding (and where hep A is endemic), comes back and is serving salad to a few thousand people at their part-time job. But it’s not just the person is positive: The same person also failed to adequately wash their hands after having a poop, and ended up making your lunch. And was not vaccinated.
  • Know your suppliers. I’ve talked with a lot of parents at my daughter’s school in the past few days and they are all concerned. But usually for the wrong reasons. It is incumbent on the supplier – and the retailers who market this crap – to provide safe food. They’re the ones who make money.

Food porn is everywhere, but microbiology involves some basics: that’s why there’s vaccines, that’s why milk is pasteurized; that’s why we don’t eat poop (and if we do, make sure it’s cooked).

That’s why I have a bunch of tip-sensitive digital thermometers for my daughter’s school.

If someone wants to promote public disclosure of handwashing compliance and is able to prove it, great.

Otherwise, you’re just a talker, not a doer.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Canada and Kansas State University in the U.S., who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.


0478 222 221

Hepatitis A in Nanna’s berries; seen and heard

As companies and consumers check their freezers, past menus and, receipts, health officials anticipate that confirmed cases will continue to grow (The Age):

The number of cases of Hepatitis A linked to the consumption of frozen berries imported from China has climbed to at least 14.

Thirty-four government schools have advised the Victorian Education Department that some of their students have consumed berries that have been recalled because of the hepatitis A imported frozen berry outbreak.1424036630491

The number of schools affected suggests that potentially hundreds of students ate berries from one of four lines of frozen berries before they were recalled in recent days by Bairnsdale-based food company Patties Foods.


Another example of questioning the world of epidemiology; gotta be tough to be an epi (Business Insider Australia):

On its website, Patties Foods says “The link between our products and the reported illnesses has not yet been confirmed,” in response to its own question about meeting medical costs.

“This makes it too early to comment,” the company said.

The local-food-is-safer contingent is out – without data (Sunshine Coast Daily):

Long-time Chevallum strawberry farmer Rick Twist, co-owner of Twist Brothers, said he could not understand why people continued to risk purchasing overseas products to save a few dollars when the integrity of local produce was so much higher.

“Why the hell do people buy this stuff from those countries when their standards are so low and ours are so high?” Mr Twist said.

“Australian berries… our regulations are so tight and so strong, I think they’re the best in the world.”

And the outbreak has hit rugby (Yahoo News):

The Tigers confirmed on Tuesday that three senior players had approached club management on Monday with concerns that berries they ate may have been contaminated.

Captain Robbie Farah and veteran winger Pat Richards were later named in news reports as two players who underwent precautionary blood tests for the virus.

[Coach Jason] Taylor declined to name the trio of players but said they had shown no symptoms and the club had no confirmed cases of infection.

“It’s really simple. A couple of guys have eaten some of the berries that have been recalled, and that’s the end of the story,” Taylor said.

“We’re not overly concerned about it. We’re just being really cautious. It’s a smart move to make sure we are ticking all the boxes and all the guys are OK.

“We don’t feel that is going to come to that point (of infection) but we are doing due diligence on it.”

Some good amateur medical assessment there, Coach Taylor.

‘I’m massively jaundice and my liver’s pretty crappy’; hepatitis A victim speaks

Hepatitis A is a pretty nasty foodborne virus, often leading to long term liver issues. According to the Daily Mail, one of the folks in a cluster of hep A illnesses linked Chinese-grown berries in Australia is speaking out.

Trudie Sims, from Ballarat in Victoria, had been using Nanna’s frozen berries in smoothies until Sunday evening, when she was alerted to the health warning which had been issued.

‘I’m really angry … (and) it’s absolutely terrified me’, Ms Sims told Daily Mail Australia.

So far four cases of hepatitis A have been confirmed in Queensland, three in Victoria, and two in New South Wales. Ms Sims’ case could take the national toll to ten.25BB8B5500000578-2955465-image-a-16_1424085864770

‘Over the last two to three weeks I’ve been getting quite sick and I just thought it was a flu,’ Ms Sims revealed.

‘Last night I just couldn’t really swallow anymore and I was going to make a frozen drink like I have been for the last four to six weeks,’ she added added.

After her partner Trevor alerted her to the health warning which had been issued when he saw Ms Sims with a packet of Nanna’s berries – he rushed her to hospital.

Since her admission her eyelids have turned yellow and she is exhibiting signs of jaundice.

‘I’m massively jaundice and my liver’s pretty crappy and these are the first signs of hep A from the berries,’ Ms Sims revealed. 

Though still awaiting the definitive results of her blood tests, Ms Sims said her doctor was almost certain she had hepatitis A, news which left her in tears.

The Ballarat woman said she feels betrayed by the food company, and claims she was misled over the origin of the product which she thought were Australian made.

‘I’m really angry’, Ms Sims said before adding ‘It’s disgusting. We’re in Australia – we have our own resources.’ 

She now faces at least a week of unpaid leave from her casual job, is on heavy antibiotics and can’t even kiss her partner.

Ms Sims said she was beside herself when she found out, especially since she and partner Trevor visited his sick mother in hospital just last week. She hopes that she did not pass on any virus.

And the import blame game has started.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said not all imported food adhered to Australia’s strict guidelines which were some of the best health and safety standards in the world.

Mr Tuohey urged consumers to always buy Australian made products but conceded identifying those products could be quite challenging. 

‘I can only assume that this company is using Chinese berries because they are offering a lower market price,’ he told The Herald Sun. ‘Berries are certainly in season in Australia.’ 

He said that it was likely the berries were contaminated when they were first picked.

‘They may have been placed on the ground where rats and other vermin could have caused the problem,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately, Australian Customs don’t test every batch, they only check a certain percentage of shipments.’