China farms push puts safety first

A giant Chinese meat importer has put food safety and quality at the top of its shopping list as it invests tens of millions of dollars in the Western Australia livestock industry.

amy_s_lamb_aug_12(1)Grand Farm president Chen Xibin said there was huge potential to build on WA’s reputation for producing safe food using modern farming methods and high standards in processing.

Brad Thompson of The West Australian reports that Grand Farm has started eyeing farms in WA as part of its history-making deal with South West meat processor V&V Walsh to secure huge volumes of quality lamb and beef.

Mr Chen arrived in WA late last week for meetings as part of the deal that will see V&V Walsh process an extra 500,000 lambs and 30,000 cattle a year.

Grand Farm, China’s biggest importer of red meat from Australia and New Zealand, is investing $1 billion in boosting supply and processing capacity with the backing of authorities in Inner Mongolia. Mr Chen said the company was considering all options for increasing supply out of WA, including buying farms, developing feedlots and live exports.

Risk assessment of Escherichia coli O157 illness from consumption of hamburgers in the United States made from Australian manufacturing beef

We analyze the risk of contracting illness due to the consumption in the United States of hamburgers contaminated with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) of serogroup O157 produced from manufacturing beef imported from Australia.

BeefAustralia2012We have used a novel approach for estimating risk by using the prevalence and concentration estimates of E. coli O157 in lots of beef that were withdrawn from the export chain following detection of the pathogen.

For the purpose of the present assessment an assumption was that no product is removed from the supply chain following testing. This, together with a number of additional conservative assumptions, leads to an overestimation of E. coli O157-associated illness attributable to the consumption of ground beef patties manufactured only from Australian beef. We predict 49.6 illnesses (95%: 0.0–148.6) from the 2.46 billion hamburgers made from 155,000 t of Australian manufacturing beef exported to the United States in 2012. All these illness were due to undercooking in the home and less than one illness is predicted from consumption of hamburgers cooked to a temperature of 68 °C in quick-service restaurants.

Risk Analysis

Andreas Kiermeier, Ian Jenson, and John Sumner;jsessionid=43180662EA5BDBE4A8B9078767641769.f03t02

Unlabeled irradiated Australian tomatoes now on NZ shelves

New Zealanders are being urged to once again ask their retailer if their tomatoes have been treated with radiation, as, according to this story, large volumes of unlabelled irradiated Australian tomatoes hit local shelves.

tomato.irradiationThe story says currently there are tonnes of irradiated Australian tomatoes being imported into New Zealand vegetable markets and food retail outlets nationwide, according to Tomatoes New Zealand.

Food retailers and the hospitality sector are legally required to label or indicate where imported irradiated Australian tomatoes are sold or served. However many are unaware that they have a responsibility to their customers to label the produce as irradiated.

Alasdair MacLeod, Chair of Tomatoes New Zealand, said; “We are asking all food and hospitality retailers, including catering companies, to clearly label their irradiated produce at point of sale and on their menus to avoid any public confusion.”

“We are also urging people to register their complaints with the Ministry for Primary Industries via their hotline number and/or email should they believe irradiated Australian tomatoes are being sold without any labeling or signage provided.”

Tomatoes New Zealand is calling on those importing, selling or serving tomatoes to comply with the New Zealand Food Standards Code, which states all food that has been irradiated, or food that contains irradiated ingredients or components, be labeled or have a label displayed on or close to it stating that it has been treated with ionizing radiation.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not have mandatory country of origin labeling of fresh produce – so unless retailers clearly label irradiated Australian tomatoes, consumers won’t be able to distinguish irradiated tomatoes from New Zealand tomatoes which are never irradiated.

New Zealand already accepts a number of irradiated tropical fruit from Australia that we don’t grow in New Zealand such as mango, papaya and custard apple. These fruits are required to have mandatory labelling.

Australian infant stricken with botulism digging deep to save other mums from heartache

Lucas Whitelegg was stricken with botulism at nine-weeks-old and left him paralyzed for 241 days.

botulism microThe Mildura, Australia, youngster spent 10 months in intensive care at Monash Children’s Hospital after ingesting spores of Clostridium botulinum bacterium, found in dust and honey.

Ms Bailey was based in  Melbourne alone and did not leave Lucas’s side, spending most of the year away from her support network and husband who could not afford to give up his job in Mildura.

During this time Andrew travelled 30,000km, commuting between Mildura and Melbourne. Eventually Lucas’s movement returned, and for the first time last month, at 17 months old, he began to crawl.

“We waited so long for these milestones so when you finally see them, they blow you away with excitement and happiness,’’ his mother Bree Bailey said. “To know what he’s come from to where he is now is incredible.’’

162 sickened: Salmonella kiss of death for Canberra restaurant

When we go out to eat, which is increasingly rare, I always ask, does your chef use raw eggs in the aioli or mayo or something else that is not cooked.

godfather.death.kissIn Australia the answer is usually a convincing yes.

I try not to be an arse about these things, but what I do say is, look at all the raw-egg related outbreaks in Australia (see

) and then say something like, we’re fans of your food, that’s why we come here. Do you really want to lose this business you worked so had for because of a dip?

In May, 2013, at least 162 people who went out for a Mother’s Day meal at the Copa Brazilian in Canberra were sickened with Salmonella.

The Copa has, according to media reports, has quietly closed and sold.

After a final dinner service on a Saturday night in mid-June, the site of Canberra’s largest salmonella outbreak now has its lights turned off and had its furniture boxed up.

One story says the victims were sickened after being “served mayonnaise in a potato salad made with bad eggs.”

egg.farm_1This is a line often heard in Australia and elsewhere: the eggs were bad.

Maybe there’s some Salmonella-night-vision goggles I don’t know about. But do restaurant owners really want to make people sick, and do they really want to lose their business?

Sydney has highest rate of salmonellosis in five years

Maybe it’s the raw egg concoctions?

Incidences of Salmonella rose by 13 per cent compared with the five-year average, according to NSW OzFoodNet figures obtained exclusively by The Daily Telegraph.

mayonnaise.raw_.egg_-300x225“There has been an Australia-wide trend of an increase in salmonellosis, which has persisted into 2014,” NSW Ministry of Health director of communicable diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said. “It is not clear why this has occurred.”

Raw egg smoothies, chocolate eclairs or profiteroles, beef tacos and fried ice-cream have emerged as the foods responsible for most reported admissions to NSW hospitals for cases of enteric disease.

Chicken burgers, Vietnamese rolls and beef and Guinness pies are other foods sending people to hospital.

The NSW OzFoodNet annual report blamed “a very hot and dry period in late September (2013)  which may have contributed to the highest ever number of salmonellosis notifications for the month of October.” Last year was the warmest on record for NSW maximum temperatures, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, and it has predicted a warmer than average winter this year.

With warmer temperatures predicted, Dr Sheppeard conceded they were “a potential risk for increased cases of salmonellosis.”

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

I wrote the Queensland Minister of Health to express my concerns a couple of  months ago, after 220 people were sickened and one died from Salmonella in raw egg dishes served at catered functions for the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5, 2013.

No response.

McDonald’s chicken nuggets leave a bad taste for five-year-old Australian boy

Should the young kid working in fast-food or retail really be the food safety critical control point, the kid that carries the brand on her shoulders?

A five-year-old boy has sworn off chicken nuggets after he was served a near-raw six-pack from a McDonald’s Drive Thru on the New South Wales south coast on Wednesday night.

chicken.mcnuggetsRiley Luke’s dinner from the Woonona restaurant looked normal at first but was strangely “soft” when he bit it.

He alerted two of his brothers, who also sampled the pink poultry.

Together they ate about half a nugget before their mother, Tracy Luke, responded to their calls and told them: “Don’t eat that!”

The mother of four said the Woonona store manager told her, “Oh, sorry … we’ve had another one complain about that” when she returned later that night and asked for a refund.

She said she was later contacted by an area manager, who told her the error probably lay with “a young kid” working at the restaurant and asked her to remove a photo of the uncooked food she had posted on a Facebook page called Name, Shame and Praise Illawarra.

She refused.

“I’m livid. My son’s epileptic too – he could have possibly died from this,” Mrs Luke said.

“I said I won’t [remove the photo] until something’s done.

“I just don’t want this to happen to someone else.”

Neither Riley nor his brothers took ill in the following days.

Mrs Luke has since complained to McDonald’s head office.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman told the Illawarra Mercury the company was investigating.

Lydia Buchtmann, spokeswoman for the Food Safety Information Council, said chicken needed to be cooked all the way through, until it was 75 degrees in the centre, to kill the bacteria.

“People shouldn’t consume chicken if it appears uncooked,” she said.

Action vs complacency; a tale of two eggs, raw and pasteurized, US and Australia

After at least 30 people were sickened with Salmonella linked to Fuego’s Tortilla Grill in College Station, Texas, the restaurant has decided to start using pasteurized eggs.

mayonnaise.raw_.egg_-300x225Since receiving the news that four of the 36 samples taken at the restaurant on May 13 tested positive for a strain of Salmonella, owner Paul Moler has reinforced safe food practices in the kitchen and imposed changes in food handling, which include the use of pasteurized eggs instead of the fresh, shelled eggs he believes to be the culprit.

“You’re thinking you’re doing the best you can do and taking all the precautions and measures. When something like this happens, it’s pretty devastating,” Moler said.

“It’s devastating that we voluntarily closed the doors, and that was enough to face on its own, but that there were actually people out there that had gotten sick because of us — that is horrible,” he added.

The health department has yet to determine the specific source of the illness, but Texas Department of State Health officials will return to the local eatery to do a follow-up swab in two weeks, said Sara Mendez with the Brazos County Health Department. Local health officials inspected the restaurant before it reopened last weekend.

Compare that response to an outbreak in Canberra, Australia, in Dec. 2011, linked to raw egg mayonnaise served by the then popular Silo Bakery, which sickened at least 22 people.

In the aftermath of the outbreak, Silo co-owner Leanne Gray said officials have advised buying commercial mayonnaise or using pasteurized eggs. Her response: “That’s the foulest thing you’ve ever seen, so I said no, I won’t.

The problem with raw eggs in food service is that they are pooled. Only 1-in-20,000 eggs may be Salmonella-positive, but when making large batches of mayonnaise or aioli, that may involve 100 eggs, that risk estimation changes to 1-in-200.

fuegoIn North America, I found pasteurized eggs available at most large supermarkets.

But that may be changing, as the Washington Post reports difficulty in finding pasteurized whole eggs or pasteurized liquid egg whites at area supermarkets.

Pasteurization heats the egg to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, but does not cook it or significantly affect its color, flavor, nutritional value, or use. The times, temperatures, and methods used to pasteurize eggs and egg products vary. One method heats shell eggs to 57.5°C (135°F) for 25 minutes using a water bath (Hou et al, 1996). New research is investigating the use of radio frequency energy to pasteurize shell eggs.  In Australia, standards for pasteurization of egg products are defined by Standard 1.6.2 in the Food Standards Code.  The Food Standards Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency define and regulate pasteurization requirements for the UK and Canada, respectively.

The yolk needs more heat than the white to kill bacteria, so specialized equipment is needed to reach a high enough temperature in the yolk without cooking the white. This special equipment is not available to consumers, so it is not recommended to pasteurize eggs at home.

Pasteurized whole out-of-shell eggs are not readily available in Europe or Canada for the general public, but are mostly sold in liquid form for wholesale and food service. The U.K. vaccinates hens to help prevent Salmonella contamination, and eggs from these hens are marked with the Lion mark.

In the U.S., shell eggs can also be pasteurized and are available to consumers. These are eggs that have been pasteurized without removing them from their shells. Although they are not available in all stores, pasteurized shell eggs are clearly labeled. One brand stamps a red “P” on the shell.

Pasteurized shell eggs are not currently available to the general public in the U.K., Canada, or Australia.

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

I wrote the Queensland Minister of Health to express my concerns a month ago, after 220 people were sickened and one died from Salmonella in raw egg dishes served at catered functions for the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5, 2013.

No response.

Australian livestock industries in ‘favorable position’ on antibiotic use

Australia’s first national survey suggests livestock industries have, according to the Bush Telegraph, done a relatively good job of limiting the use of antibiotics.

The survey of 2,600 samples collected through 22 veterinary laboratories around Australia shows a low level of resistance to antibiotics.

ab.use.pigs.austThe labs tested for antibiotic resistance within two types of pathogens – E. coli and Golden Staph (Staphylococcus).

The survey found no resistance to carbapenems, an antibiotic class of last resort in human medicine used against infections when other antibacterial treatments have failed.

However the study identified ‘very low’ frequencies of resistance to other critically important human antimicrobials including fluoroquinolones and 3rd generation cephalosporins.

Professor John Turnidge, senior medical adviser on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, says “what’s encouraging is the levels of resistance to the critical antibiotics for human health are close to zero.

“In part it’s due to the fact that by good foresight, good management, or good luck about 20 years ago for one particular class of antibiotics, we made a decision at a federal level that these shouldn’t be available for use in food animals and I think we’re reaping the benefit of that now.

“I’m embarrassed to say they (livestock industries) have been doing a better job than the human side.”

Who takes eggs through an airport? Alleged smuggler stopped in Sydney

Anyone who has been to Australia knows, don’t mess with customs folks.

A Czech man who allegedly tried to smuggle 16 bird eggs into Australia by hiding them in his pants has been charged.

imagesThe 39-year-old was frisked at Sydney Airport by customs officers after arriving from Dubai on Tuesday.

“Officers … allegedly found 16 small eggs concealed in his groin area,” Customs NSW commander Tim Fitzgerald said.

Government vets are trying to identify the species of bird.