Victorian health authorities reported 54 cases of Salmonella Anatum infection. A total of 62 are believed to be involved but food histories are yet to establish links to the products.
Other states and territories are examining up to 30 possible cases. Whether these are linked to the outbreak strain in Victoria requires confirmation including laboratory testing.
The Federal Department of Health held a meeting of OzFoodNet, Australia’s foodborne disease surveillance system, bringing together health departments as well as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
The consumer recall affects products with use by dates up to and including 14 February.
Coles and Bi-Lo stores in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, Woolworths stores in ACT, Victoria, NSW and other independent outlets (including some Foodworks stores, Aussie Farmers Direct, fruit and vegetable shops, markets and to trade) in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, SA, NT and ACT are affected.
Dr Paul Kelly, Australian Capital Territory, chief health officer, advised the community to be aware of an outbreak of Salmonella gastroenteritis in Victoria, which has been linked to pre-packaged salad products grown and distributed by the Victorian-based company Tripod Farmers.
“Salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria Salmonella. Symptoms of infection include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, vomiting and headache. These symptoms usually start within 12 to 36 hours after exposure to the bacteria and most people are sick for four to seven days,” he said.
“Anyone who may have consumed these products which have been recalled and is concerned about their health should seek medical advice from their general practitioner.
“There has not been a spike in the number of Salmonella cases in the ACT this year, as has been seen in Victoria. The ACT Health Protection Service has not identified any cases with the implicated strain of Salmonella in the Victorian outbreak (Salmonella anatum) this year,” Dr Kelly said.
Tripod Farmers recalled its pre-packaged lettuce products on advice from the Victorian Health Department following detection of Salmonella in three product samples.
The firm is a family-owned business growing lettuce and leafy vegetables in Victorian farms, in Gippsland, Western Melbourne, and Mildura, with a processing facility in Bacchus Marsh. The company has a workforce of more than 400 people.
Product distribution and ongoing investigation
Tripod Farmers is processing and distributing lettuce and leafy salad products at its Bacchus March facility following a site inspection from the Victorian Health Department.
Frank Ruffo, Tripod Farmers MD, said health authorities inspected the Bacchus Marsh plant, including equipment swabs and further product testing.
“Our complete production area, including floor and equipment, is sanitised daily and we conduct regular microbiological testing on our facility and product samples, in full compliance with Australian standards,” he said.
“We apologise to our customers and anyone affected by this recall, and are doing everything possible to ensure the health and safety of consumers and the integrity of our products.”
The firm said it is expecting further test results this week to determine and fix the cause of Salmonella contamination.
“The detections of Salmonella were part of routine testing on product as part of the company’s standard food safety and quality program,” said Ruffo.
“In the interests of public safety, we have recalled the entire production batches from which the positive samples were detected.
“We are continuing to work closely with health authorities to determine the cause and extent of the problem, and with our customers to manage an effective recall.”
Tripod Farmers has suspended some of its farming and processing operations as part of the investigation and until the problem has been identified and fixed.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong said the affected product had been imported.
The CFS said Wash N Toss Salad Mix with use-by-date of February 13 had been imported but all products had been re-exported through a distributor and none had been sold in the local market.
"The Centre received a notification from the International Food Safety Authorities Network that pre-packaged salad leaves produced by the above-mentioned manufacturer were suspected to be linked to a Salmonella outbreak in Australia," a spokesman for the CFS said.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) confirmed that the implicated products, ‘Wash N Toss’ salad leaves were imported into the country.
AVA instructed importers to recall the implicated products from the market immediately.
Thailand has also been affected but the product has not been exported to Malaysia.