TASMANIA experienced seven food-poisoning incidents that caused illness and hospitalization to several hundred members of the community.

An independent disease risk assessment report on these Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks was released today by Tasmanian Greens Deputy Leader and Spokesperson for Consumer Affairs, Nick McKim, MHA (Franklin).

Reporting on the five incidents in 2005, investigators described this cluster of Salmonella infections in humans as ‘one of the largest egg-associated outbreaks of food-borne illness in Australia for many years.’1

These incidents span a period of over 2½ years and present a recurring theme.

Despite 25 visits conducted by Department of Primary Industries & Water and apparently passing a number of farm audits in 2006, and again in January, 2007 there have been an additional two Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks linked to the same egg producer.

This review has ascertained that:

(1) the type of Salmonella responsible for the food-borne illnesses affecting humans in all incidents was the same - Salmonella Typhimurium PT 135,

(2) the food ingredient identified as contaminated with Salmonella bacteria in all outbreaks is the same - eggs,

(3) the use of that ingredient in bulk food preparation is the same - namely, the use of raw egg incorporated into a range of foods and sauces prepared in commercial kitchens, restaurants, cafés & bakeries,

(4) the period of the year when most outbreaks occurred during 2005, 2007 and 2008 coincided with the warmer months, and

(5) the point-source of all outbreaks is the same - [this was confirmed by the State authorities on 15 February 2008 as the egg farm owned by Mr N.E. Pitt.]

Serious food-poisoning incidents continued despite assurances that an egg quality assurance program - specific to this farm - were in place as early as 2006.

It is now vital that the State animal health & public health officers thoroughly investigate all aspects of the on-farm animal husbandry and operations of this business.

1Stephens, N., Sault, C., Firestone, S.M., Lightfoot, D. & Bell, C. (2007) Large outbreaks of Salmonella Typhimurium phage type 135 infections associated with the consumption of products containing raw egg in Tasmania. Communicable Disease Intelligence 31: 118-124.

David Obendorf
Registered Veterinarian

Nick McKim The Greens MR: http://www.tas.greens.org.au

REPORT LINKS SALMONELLA EGGS WITH ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS
Nick McKim MP
Deputy Leader and Consumer Affairs spokesperson
Thursday, 21 February 2008

The Tasmanian Greens today released a report commissioned by Deputy Leader and Consumer Affairs spokesperson Nick McKim MP, and authored by veterinary pathologist Dr David Obendorf, which links unsatisfactory animal welfare standards with the entry of salmonella contaminated eggs into the foodstream.

Mr McKim said that Dr Obendorf has found that ‘The unsatisfactory animal welfare standards applying at the battery egg farm identified as the source of Salmonella-contaminated eggs are, in my view, directly responsible for entry of contaminated eggs into foods destined for human consumption.’

Mr McKim said that Dr Obendorf has also found that ‘In situations where birds are exhibiting signs of intercurrent disease, debilitation or stress and corpses of decomposing birds are allowed to remain within the closest proximity of egg-laying birds (such as were identified at the battery-cage farm identified as the source of all six Tasmanian egg-associated Salmonella food-poisoning incidents in 2005-06) then, in my view, there is an increased likelihood for even intact eggs to become contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.’

“The report links the Government’s failure to ensure adequate animal welfare standards in Tasmania, evidenced by the shocking images obtained by animal welfare activists at a battery farm last year, with the entry of Salmonella-contaminated eggs from that farm into the foodstream.”

Mr McKim said that Dr Obendorf’s report made many recommendations to protect human health, which he said should be considered as part of an independent review.

“The report strengthens the case for an independent review of the Tasmanian government’s regulatory response to the series of Salmonella outbreaks in recent times.”

“We know that the government’s regulatory regime has failed to ensure adequate animal welfare outcomes, and there is now a clear link between this failure and the serious of salmonella outbreaks.”
“The best way to protect public health would be for the government to enact legislation to ban battery hen farming. This would have significant animal welfare benefits as well as improved public health outcomes.”

Mr McKim said that Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn has previously expressed personal concern about battery hen farming, but typically had done nothing as a result.

Dr Obendorf previously worked for the state government as a veterinary pathologist, was for 10 years a member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the Office International des Epizooties (the International Animal Health Body based in Paris), and was commissioned by the State Government in 2002 to report on Tasmania’s preparedness for major animal disease outbreaks. 

 

Dr David Obendorf Implementing Food Safety Standards from the Farm to the Consumer

Reporting on the five incidents in 2005, investigators described this cluster of Salmonella infections in humans as ‘one of the largest egg-associated outbreaks of food-borne illness in Australia for many years.’1 These incidents span a period of over 2½ years and present a recurring theme.  Despite 25 visits conducted by Department of Primary Industries & Water and apparently passing a number of farm audits in 2006, and again in January, 2007 there have been an additional two Salmonella food poisoning outbreaks linked to the same egg producer.