Australia the world leader in Salmonella outbreaks

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Foodborne illness

Australia has more outbreaks of Salmonella than any other country, according to researchers in the country who found 73 cases of the bacteria per 100,000 people last year.

Salmonella​ is the second highest cause of bacterial food-borne gastroenteritis in Australia after Campylobacter​, and along with Listeria monocytogenes​, it is responsible for more deaths in Australia than any other food-borne disease, each accounting for about 15 deaths per year, according to Csiro.

Last year, a number of outbreaks were reported, including one that affected 250 school principals attending a conference in Brisbane that was attributed to cross-contamination and poor hygiene.

This year has seen several reported outbreaks, including one allegedly caused by meat and salad rolls from a Sydney bakery, and another from fresh produce that possibly resulted in more than 100 people becoming unwell and sparked a widespread recall of 30 bagged leafy green products. As a result, a nationwide drop in sales for other bagged-salad producers has been reported.

It’s difficult to tell whether food-borne illnesses overall are on the rise or not, but we do know that there are now better detection, tracing and reporting systems, and with social media, people are likely to hear about it more easily and quickly​,” wrote researchers at Australia’s government research institute in an online post.

What was unusual about the latter outbreak was that it was in leafy greens, nationwide and that the serotype was Salmonella Anatum​, one of 2,000 different strains of the virus.

Symptoms are similar to infection caused by other Salmonella, ​including fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort, though it appears to be a milder and shorter-lived form 

“Salmonella Anatum can cause disease in humans, but in Australia is most frequently isolated from animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and chickens, and their environments​,” the Csiro researchers wrote.

According to an American study from 2012, the strain was suspected in only one or two out of dozens of outbreaks it investigated.

With just over 17,000 Salmonella ​cases recorded last year, though, Csiro believes that more research is needed to find out why that is, how it’s transmitted and what can be done about it. 

The institute says it is currently working with health authorities and supporting the food industry in a range of food safety and public health issues.

Related topics Policy Oceania Food safety

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