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.

2000 sickened: fines and possible jail for Salmonella-in-egg owners

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.

Today, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 79, and Peter DeCoster, 50, agreed to pay $7 million in fines and forfeitures as part of a federal criminal case scheduled for hearing Tuesday.

egg.farmProsecutors allege Quality Egg on at least two occasions in 2010, including April 12, 2010, offered money to a “public official with intent to influence an official act.”

On April 12, 2010, Quality Egg employees offered a USDA inspector $300 to release eggs for sale that had failed to meet federal standards, according to criminal charges filed in 2012 against Tony Wasmund, a former Quality Egg employee.

Wasmund, 63, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiring to bribe an egg inspector. His sentencing has been rescheduled four times, leading to speculation prosecutors were using his testimony against the DeCosters.

The trial information also states Quality Egg knowingly sold eggs between Jan. 1, 2006, and Aug. 12, 2010, that were mislabeled to appear fresher than they were.

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.

Federal prosecutors charge Iowa egg company, 2 executives in 2010 salmonella outbreak

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella.

Federal prosecutors have now filed charges against disgraced egg industry titan Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, a misdemeanor.

egg.dirty.feb.12Their company, Quality Egg LLC, is charged with introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce, a felony. The document says Quality Egg sold products for years with labeling that “made the eggs appear to be not as old as they actually were.”

The company is also charged with bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector.

The charges were filed in a document called an information, which suggests they’ve reached plea agreements.

Dubai has an egg problem

Dubai apparently has an egg problem too, as authorities are urging residents to take extra precautions when ordering high-risk food from restaurants, especially the many egg-based dishes that are not fully cooked.

Raw_eggSultan Al Tahir, head of food inspection section, emphasized that eggs should be stored in refrigerators all along the food chain from the farm until they are cooked.

“In the kitchen, eggs should be broken carefully in a segregated area to prevent contamination of other ready to eat food. Egg products should be cooked well to a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Celsius as per our regulations. Eggs that are stored at ambient temperatures should not be consumed and our inspectors have been instructed to discard eggs that have not been stored or cooked properly,” he said.

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. 

Culture of indifference; 220 sick from Salmonella in latest Australian egg outbreak; microbial food safety problems on rise

Australia has more than an egg problem – it has a microbial food safety problem.

And the public availability of food safety information is embarrassingly sparse, creating a culture of indifference.

As the number sickened by Salmonella linked to raw-egg based dishes at Torquay’s Bottle of Milk restaurant climbed to 220, OzFoodNet, the national foodborne disease monitoring American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper walking in streetnetwork, reports the number of Australians struck down by food poisoning has leapt almost 80 per cent in a decade and the number of outbreaks linked to restaurants has more than doubled.

In the decade to 2011, the number of Australians affected by foodborne gastroenteritis increased 79 per cent. In 2011, 150 outbreaks affected 2,241 people compared with 86 affecting 1,768 people in 2001. The rate of hospitalization has trebled since 2001.

The figures capture only a fraction of infections since most victims don’t go to a doctor, experts say. A 2002 estimate of people affected by food poisoning put the number at 5.4 million cases of gastro and 120 deaths a year at a cost of $1.25 billion.

Martyn Kirk, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Australian National University and former OzFoodNet senior epidemiologist, warns that any foods prepared without the bacterial ”kill step” of cooking increase the risk of bacteria spreading, and that Salmonella is linked to multiple food sources.

”It’s definitely not always the chicken … We’ve had outbreaks of salmonella linked to rockmelon, papaya, cucumbers – and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Raw or minimally cooked eggs are the single largest cause of foodborne illness in Australia. But fresh produce has been increasingly implicated in outbreaks as health-conscious raw.eggsconsumers favour salads, raw vegetables and minimally processed foods with lower salt and fat contents.

In the Bottle of Milk outbreak, suspect eggs were traced back to the Green Eggs farm in Great Western. Sales have been restricted until food safety is improved.

In recent days a handful of salmonella cases have also emerged among diners at St Kilda’s Newmarket Hotel, which had also sourced eggs from the Green Eggs farm.

Victorian chief health officer Rosemary Lester said other salmonella cases not linked to the two restaurants had also emerged and were being investigated.

Late last year, Piccalilli Catering was identified as the Brisbane catering company at the centre of another salmonella outbreak, which contributed to the death of one elderly lady and 220 others falling ill.

“We are deeply upset and distressed by this outcome. We always pride ourselves on sourcing the freshest Australian ingredients for our kitchens. We feel very disappointed bottle.of.milk.feb.14and let down that the normally reliable fresh food supply chain has failed us – and our clients – on this occasion,” Piccalilli Catering co-owner, Helen Grace, said at the time.

Until someone develops Salmonella-spotting goggles, Australian food service needs to use pasteurized eggs in homemade mayonnaise and aioli, or commercial sources. Having this conversation with an Australian restaurant chef is like walking into 1978.

Don’t leave eggs in direct sunlight; UK butchers warned over egg displays

The British Egg Industry Council has written to leading butchers organisations to warn them of the dangers of displaying eggs in shop windows.

Fluctuating temperatures are likely to lead to degradation of the quality of eggs kept in direct sunlight, potentially resulting in customer complaints and creating unnecessary problems for butchers.

Eggs should also be stored correctly (dry and out of direct sunlight) to minimise the risk from salmonella, should this be present. The problems will increase over the summer egg.window.butcher.ukmonths, but even in the winter months there can be issues, particularly when there is direct sunlight on the shop window.

If eggs containing salmonella are stored incorrectly, this will lead to the salmonella present multiplying rapidly, which increases the health threat to consumers. Although British Lion eggs have been extensively tested for salmonella – in the most recent Food Standards Agency tests salmonella was not recovered from inside any British Lion eggs – there is still a risk from non-Lion imported eggs.

In addition, although British Lion eggs carry a best before date on the shell, there is no legal requirement to date-stamp eggs and, unless stock is rotated carefully, both the quality and safety of eggs may be impaired.

MPs’ fury at fresh egg ban because they are ‘too dangerous’ to use in House of Commons’ kitchens

It’s dangerous politics to talk about eggs and risk in the UK.

In 1988, then junior UK health minister Edwina Currie warned the British public that most of the egg production in the UK was affected by Salmonella. Egg sales collapsed, Currie was scrambled-eggs-su-1017334-leventually turfed from cabinet and millions worth of compensation was paid to egg producers.

Yesterday, Members of Parliament scrambled to blast a ban on chefs using fresh eggs in the House of Commons’ kitchens.

Caterers have been told they are “too dangerous” and could be contaminated with salmonella.

Instead they must use liquid egg for dishes like omelette.

But Labour MP Thomas Docherty, vice chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, ordered an inquiry into the daft move.

He said: “I have asked managers to find out who took this ridiculous decision.”

Another shell-shocked MP warned: “If MPs cannot or will not eat scrambled eggs because they are a health risk, members of the public may say, ‘if it is too dangerous for MPs then it must be too dangerous for us’.”

A Commons spokeswoman insisted the ban was in line with Food Standards Agency advice.

She added: “Dishes such as scrambled eggs, mousses or omelettes which do not reach a core temperature of 75C are now made using pasteurised liquid egg rather than fresh eggs.”

But the Food Standards Agency said there was nothing to stop caterers cooking with fresh eggs.

A spokesman pointed out the ­guidance on using the liquid version was meant for vulnerable people like the elderly and ­seriously ill.

It also applied only if the dish was not to be fully cooked.

The spokesman added: “This is simply ­guidance and not a legal requirement.”

Guidance needs to be clear and food safety is never simple. Keep those eggs piping hot.

Should food execs face criminal terms? Lawyers will figure that out but retailers should provide consumers choice

I like eggs, they’re a baking essential and a useful protein source; Sorenne likes them boiled, but only the white parts.

When I buy eggs, I can get free-range, cage-free, omega-3 and probably many others.

What I can’t get is information on the microbiological  safety of eggs at seasame.street.good.egg.projectretail; and these huckster labels are poor surrogates for safety.

In 2010, at least 2,000 people were sickened with Salmonella from eggs produced by DeCoster farms in Iowa.

Three years later, federal prosecutors are still seeking criminal charges.

Attorneys in Iowa’s Northern District are waiting to sentence a former manager of an Iowa egg company involved in the 2010 outbreak that sickened about 2,000 people, possibly to see what testimony he provides to a grand jury that continues to investigate the case.

Tony Wasmund, 62, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to bribe a federal egg inspector at Wright County Egg, one of the Iowa egg farms operated by Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter DeCoster, a father and son from Clarion.

Wasmund’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 16, nearly a year after he took a plea deal from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The delay feeds speculation that prosecutors are using Wasmund’s testimony to a Cedar Rapids grand jury to implicate others in the DeCoster egg operations.

I understand the law takes a long time; divorce court goes on forever. But there is nothing stopping the better egg producers from bragging about safety, today. And not in scripted media tours targeted at specialized journalists, I want to know, shopping, with my kids.

And I don’t want a cartoon on Sesame Street, I want microbiological data. The best should be loud and proud and brag at retail.