Australia still has an egg problem: Salmonella up, other foodborne illnesses falling

Despite more than four million Australians getting sick from contaminated food each year, the overall national rate of food poisoning is falling.

garlic_aioliExcept, that is, when it comes to Salmonella.

A glance at Victoria’s Department of Health figures for example, shows an increase of 65 per cent in Salmonella poisoning since 2012, where 2,500 people reported ill in the 12 months to August 2015.

Queensland has seen a doubling of Salmonella cases in the past 12 months.

According to Department of Health, “overall, despite more coverage, foodborne illness is declining, from 4.3 million cases a year in 2000 to 4.1 million cases in 2010.

“Our supply chains have become more complex, our meal solutions have become a lot more complex. It’s not just chops and three veg as it used to be.

“Shelf life is stretched to the limit.

“It’s across all food items, and Australian consumers can expect to fall ill from food contamination every four or five years on average due to contaminated food.”

It is thought that consumption of frozen berries in Australia is now 30 per cent of where it was when Hep A struck earlier this year.

“While salmonella bacteria are most commonly associated with livestock and chickens, they have also been responsible for food safety outbreaks associated with fresh produce,” says the new Food Safety Guideline.

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

Raw eggs again: 16 stricken with Salmonella in Seattle

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times reports that as many as 16 people were likely sickened with salmonella poisoning from raw eggs used in Father’s Day weekend brunch dishes served at Tallulah’s restaurant in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, health officials said Wednesday.

Tallulah’sVictims in the June 21 outbreak ranged in ages from 4 to 71, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County said. There were nine confirmed cases and seven probable cases of infection, including one person who was hospitalized.

The infections were traced to crab and ham eggs Benedict dishes, which typically include a sauce made from raw eggs. Managers at the restaurant at 550 19th Ave. E reported the problem to health officials after receiving complaints from customers. Restaurant staff have been cooperative with the environmental health and epidemiologic investigation, officials said.

An investigation of the egg supplier and distributor conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed no violation of regulations regarding temperature control, storage or handling, officials said. The producer reported no recent positive tests for salmonella bacteria, although they don’t routinely test raw shell eggs.

The restaurant menu was appropriately labeled to note that dishes made with raw or undercooked foods could result in foodborne illness.


1 dead, 32 sickened: Salmonella in UK eggs from Bavaria

The UK also has an egg problem.

A report has found a Salmonella outbreak at a Birmingham hospital directly caused the death of a patient.

egg.dirty.feb.12The outbreak at Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green, between 25 May and 18 June 2014, saw 32 staff and patients infected.

Five of those patients, who were seriously ill, later died, but salmonella was not directly responsible, the report said.

The outbreak was traced to contaminated eggs produced in Bavaria, Germany.

Prof Eric Bolton’s report found inadequately equipped wards, unmonitored food preparation, and poor cleaning helped it spread.

Initial swabbing found a food trolley in the Beech ward, left near a toilet, to be contaminated with salmonella.

There were staff shortages on the two wards, which led to them feeling a sense of “blame and isolation”.

“On reflection these staff were taking the brunt of the salmonella infection issues and became a little demoralised during the outbreak,” the report said.

Main report recommendations:

  • The Heart of England NHS Trust should review its infection control and cleaning services to ensure they meet the requirements of The Health and Social Care Act 2008
  • The trust should review the need for a plan that deals with major incidents or outbreaks
  • The trust should regularly review major policies that relate to patient safety and infection control procedures as a number were overdue for review
  • The trust should review all of its high-risk, specialist wards in the light of the experience from this outbreak and ensure that the ward environment and equipment is fit for purpose
  • The trust should ensure that all ward staff handling food undertake food hygiene training.


Inspections and audits are never enough: Blame the consumer, German version, deadly Salmonella outbreak traced to Bavarian egg farm

Despite visiting the infected farm on a number of occasions, finding Salmonella and seeing an unusual amount of dead chickens, Bavarian health authorities took no action, leading to widespread illness and multiple deaths across Europe last summer, Sputnik reported.

salmonella.eggsAn outbreak of Salmonella which led to hundreds of people falling ill across Europe last summer, and was linked to several deaths, has been traced back to contaminated eggs from a farm in Bavaria, German media has revealed.

The farm is owned by the Bayern Ei company, one of Germany’s largest egg producers which operates four chicken factories, where hens lay some one million eggs a day.

At the farm in question, in the southern region of Lower Bavaria, where hundreds of chickens were being found dead each day, company bosses initially told employees the death rate was due to chickens dying from heat.

According to the investigation carried out by reporters from Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung and Bayerischen Rundfunk, the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authorities knew about the presence of Salmonella at the farm, having found evidence of the infection in two separate investigations.

However, the authorities turned a blind eye and took no action to take products from the farm off the market, since “the responsible customer” is aware that “eggshells are not sterile,” and should wash their hands after handling an egg.

2 dead, hundreds sickened in German Salmonella outbreak: It can come from free-range and organic eggs

From the duh files:

egg.dirty.feb.12Berlin-based consumer protection organization Foodwatch warned about the state of food animal farming and called for stronger regulations for maintaining animals on Thursday. This follows an outbreak of salmonella that killed two and sickened hundreds, thought to have hailed from a Bavarian company.

The source of the outbreak is believed to be Bavarian egg producer Bayern-Ei. The district attorney for the city of Regensburg is investigating whether the company “brought dangerous food onto the market” in the past year, while animal rights activists have criticized the company for keeping large groups of chickens in small, overcrowded cages.

Theo Ziegler, senior public prosecutor in Regensburg, said that should their suspicions be confirmed, the firm would have to answer for the two deaths following the outbreak in mid-2014. Hundreds of people in Germany, the UK, Austria, France and Luxembourg fell ill from the same strain of salmonella.

Officials in Britain and Austria, which each lost a citizen to the outbreak, claim they are certain at least one of the deaths can be traced to Bayern-Ei.

Foodwatch cautioned in a report on the egg industry that no matter what the nature of egg production – free-range, cage-free, caged or organic – the humane treatment and safety of the products is not guaranteed.


CSI UV goggles? How to tell if an egg is bad

Friend of the barfblog and current Welsh tourist, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University, has a few things to say about egg safety, especially: most of those so-called tests are BS.

nsw.egg.label.oct.14According to SafeBee, there are lots of egg tests on the Internet. You’re supposed to place an egg in a bowl of cold water, for instance. If it floats, it’s old. If it sinks, it’s fresh. If it sinks but stands on its pointed end, it’s supposedly a caution: eat it now before it goes bad. 

The theory behind the float test? Egg shells are porous, and as time goes on the egg’s liquid evaporates through the porous shell and air enters. That makes the eggs more buoyant, so some say the older an egg, the more it floats. 

Forget this test, says Don Schaffner, PhD, a food scientist at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey. “Eggs do take in air as they age, but the size of the air cell in the egg varies from egg to egg. So a freshly laid egg and an older egg may react similarly.” There is too much variability in air cell size from egg to egg to make this a valid test, he says. 

Other Internet advice calls for cracking the egg open and inspecting the yolk and albumen (the white part). If it’s a fresh egg, the yolk should be bright yellow or orange, and the white should not spread much. 

Schaffner gives a thumbs-down to this test as well. “The color of the yolk is primarily determined by what they feed the chickens,” he says. “It may change over time, but it will vary from egg to egg.”

As for the white part: “An older egg will have a white that spreads more than a fresher egg,” he says. “But that has nothing to do with the fact that the egg is spoiled or not, it’s a chemical, physical change in the egg.” 

Another popular idea is to give your egg the sound test. In a quiet space, hold the egg up to your ear and shake it. If it sloshes, the egg has gone bad, the story goes. That sloshing is said to indicate a watery, old yolk.  

Shaffner says this sound test has no credibility. “Eggs do slosh around,” he says. Sloshing doesn’t indicate spoilage, however, he says. He does have another use for the sound test: “That would be a good way to see if the egg is hardboiled or not.”

powell.egg.nov.14The best test to see if an egg is OK to eat? Get the egg in question and have your nose ready. “As far as I know the only way to know an egg is bad is to crack it open and see if it smells.” Of course, you can always examine the egg as you smell, he says. “If it looks strange, I wouldn’t consume it, but odor is the real tip off.” 

Never mind that your refrigerator has a special spot for eggs built into the door. Keep them in the carton, Schaffner and others say. “We know the door is not as good,” he says.

Instead, put the eggs, still in the carton, in the coldest part of the refrigerator. On the door, the temperatures may fluctuate when the door is opened and closed. Keeping the eggs in the carton also means you can refer to the sell-by date. Eggs — even hard-boiled eggs — should not be left out at room temperature more than two hours, as dangerous bacteria can grow. 

“Salmonella is the organism we are most worried about,” Schaffner says. It could be inside the egg if it was infected before it was laid, or it could be on the shell.

Cook whole eggs to about 144 to 158 degrees F; egg whites, 144 to 149; yolks, 149 to 158. Cooking eggs sunny side up or over easy is more of a Salmonella risk than cooking them more thoroughly, Schaffner says.

2000 sickened: US egg executives punished for Salmonella outbreak, sentences send strong message to industry (no it doesn’t)

If you’re an egg producer and sicken over 2,000 people with Salmonella because of your shitty procedures, three months in jail and fines is not a victory.

Raw_eggIt’s shit.

They’ll be out in a month (I’ve been in jail).

According to AP, the three-month sentences handed down in federal court are noteworthy because only a handful of cases of corporate misconduct end with executives behind bars (in the U.S.). The extent of harm caused by the outbreak and the pattern of problems led to the decision for jail time.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, each faced up to a year in jail on misdemeanor charges for shipping adulterated food. They will remain free while appealing their sentences.

“There’s a litany of shameful conduct, in my view, that happened under their watch,” U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett said.

Prosecutors said the jail sentences send a strong message about the importance of following food safety rules.

“A sentence of imprisonment is a fairly significant sentence in a case like this,” said Peter Deegan, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

No, it just shows how little the U.S. cares about food safety and the free reign to make people sick.

What can consumers do if they want to eat eggs?


Market microbial food safety at retail.


Market microbial food safety at retail and stop hucksterism: Brisbane campaign to buy local produce

It’s not a new superbug, it’s an outbreak of super stupidity.

A Brisbane TV station finally woke up to Australia’s egg problem, and titled their investigation (bottom), Scientists fear super strain of bacteria behind food poisoning outbreak.

Raw_eggThis refers to the numerous egg-related outbreaks in Queensland and throughout Australia, largely related to a chef snobbery that they have to make their own aioli or mayo using raw eggs.

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

And in response to the 32 Australians that have been stricken with Hepatitis A from imported frozen fruit, a new initiative is targeting Brisbane shoppers to support local farmers by buying local produce.

Every time some in Brisbane gets religion about buying local, I point out that’s much easier in a sub-tropical climate than, say, Canada.

The scheme involves 100 independent grocers and is backed by Brisbane’s Produce Markets. 

Greengrocer Joseph Guardala said the “hand picked” message was aimed at family shoppers.

He claims greengrocers have better fruit and vegetables than major supermarkets, because they specialize in it.

“They don’t want imported stuff, they want their local fruit to and veg to be locally grown here,” he said

He visits the Brisbane Markets every morning to source the produce for his store, Indooroopilly Fruit. 

“I’m hand picking everything, I’m tasting everything, I open boxes, I even pick through pallets every day, just to get my 24 grapes that I exactly want,” he said.

Here’s hoping you washed your hands properly before spreading Norovirus on all that fresh fruit and veg you touch.

54 sickened: German eggs linked to UK Salmonella outbreak

A Salmonella outbreak at Kirkby take-away Woks Cooking has been linked to German eggs and poor hygiene.

salmonella.eggsHealth bosses have completed their final investigations into the fast food outlet which was shut down by Knowsley council last July but opened again in August and is now under new management.

The report by Public Health England (PHE) confirms food safety experts have found signs that the salmonella illnesses at Woks Cooking, as well as a series of other cases across Europe, were linked to eggs from a German supplier.

Dr Alex Stewart, from PHE’s Cheshire and Merseyside centre, said: “There is now evidence to indicate that a series of cases in Europe caused by the same strains of Salmonella were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source. The eggs from this supplier also reached distributors and food outlets in England and there is evidence to support the hypothesis that this was the same source of infection for Woks Cooking.

“Nevertheless, good practice in any food outlet accounts for the possibility of contaminated food sources; in this outbreak it is clear that poor hygiene practices with cross-contamination were the ultimate cause of the outbreak.”

It had previously been thought 25 people were struck by the salmonella in Kirkby last July but food safety experts have now confirmed 54 cases were identified which were linked to Woks Cooking, which is on Richard Hesketh Drive in Westvale.

Of these, 33 cases were microbiologically confirmed Salmonella Enteritidis PT14b and 21 were classified as probable cases.

There were nine people hospitalised during the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for PHE said they were unable to name the company which supplied the eggs from but confirmed it was German.

‘It’s a mitigation measure’ Food safety amateur hour continues in Queensland with ‘dirty eggs’

With 250 teachers sick from a conference, and an additional 20 people sick in a separate outbreak around Brisbane – but apparently using the same egg supplier – people are now being told it’s possible dirty eggs may be the cause.

mountain_range_eggsThis isn’t CSI, with its groovy UV lights that make great television but lousy science.

This also isn’t rocket surgery: publicly release all surveillance data on raw eggs in Queensland (or Australia), publicly release the menu items at the Queensland Convention Center and the Grocer and Grind on the Gold Coast where two of their own chefs got sick, and tell chefs to stop using raw eggs in dishes they have to so expertly craft from scratch like aioli or mayonnaise.

This is nothing new and we have been documenting the problem for years. A table of Australian raw egg Salmonella outbreaks is available here (or here to download the spreadsheet).

Queensland Health yesterday revealed 1,895 cases of Salmonella had been detected since the start of the year, more than double previous levels, prompting an alert to businesses involved in food preparation and the wider community.

Safe Food Production Queensland general manager Phil Pond said Darling Downs Fresh Eggs had immediately issued the voluntary recall of the dirty eggs once notified.

Mr Pond said salmonella bacteria was carried in many animals, especially poultry and pigs, and any ingestion of fecal matter could be harmful to people.

But because the fecal matter could not be entirely eliminated, Queensland had adopted a mitigation strategy which included limiting the sale of any produce, including dirty eggs.

my.brain.hurts“Queensland has had a food safety scheme since 2005 with a salmonella mitigation strategy,” Mr Pond said.

“That’s what this is, a mitigation measure.

“Darling Downs Fresh Eggs has done everything possible to alert the public of the possible dirty eggs in the market place.”

Not quite.

Queensland Health’s Sophie Dwyer said an increase in raw egg consumption, poor food handling and hygiene standards, and consumption of cracked and dirty eggs had all contributed.

“One of the issues is that sometimes people think dirty eggs indicate they’re more healthy, or naturally produced,” Dwyer said.

“But if they are dirty it doesn’t mean they’re safer, they’re more hazardous.

“We are seeing a wider range of products being produced in the home and restaurants that include raw eggs. Products like aioli, mayonnaise, mousse and tiramisu use raw eggs and therefore don’t have a step that would kill any salmonella bacteria.”

Peter Collignon of the Austalian National University said salmonella cases were increasing each year, with more than 10,000 reported cases annually, adding, “The problem is that in Australia, we don’t take the same precautions as other countries do to keep salmonella rates down.”

The restaurant industry was a major source of contamination, he said, because it was impossible for consumers to tell which meals on a menu contained raw egg.