Australian authorities trace Salmonella to SA factory

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istock/sommail
Picture: Istock/sommail

Related tags Australia

The source of Salmonella which has sickened more than 300 people in Australia has been traced to a factory in South Australia.

Since the start of December 254 Salmonella Saintpaul cases have been reported in South Australia and 48 people hospitalised.

SA Health said it was anticipating more cases in the next few weeks but they will be associated with previous consumption.

The Northern Territory Department of Health also reported more than 50 cases in the last two weeks with 12 people hospitalised.

In a press conference, Professor Paddy Phillips, chief public health officer at SA Health, said it wasn’t going to name the factory which is a small family run business and has co-operated with the investigation. 

The agency described it as a 'single, isolated incident' adding there was no ongoing health risk and no evidence of poor practices.

The washing tray where the sprouts go through was found to be contaminated with the same strain as the notified cases. Since first identification the processing plant has been found to be clear of the pathogen, as has the only other factory in South Australia that produces bean sprouts.

Bean sprout supplier

SA Health said the investigation led them to a factory that supplies bean sprouts to retailers in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Both agencies had advised against eating raw bean sprouts but SA Health said investigations had led to all sprout processors being given the all clear.

Professor Phillips said since December it had seen a dramatic increase in Salmonella Saintpaul notifications.

“Following rigorous investigation and analysis and cleaning of the area where we found a positive sample, I can advise South Australians that they can resume eating raw bean sprouts and food service businesses such as cafes and restaurants can serve raw bean sprouts again," ​he said.

“This business was completely compliant with all our investigations and there is no reason to believe that there are any further issues with the production of bean sprouts at this factory.”

Including the Salmonella Saintpaul cases there have been 693 Salmonella illnesses in South Australia in 2016.

Previous outbreaks

The Food Safety Information Council said outbreaks in Australia and overseas have been associated with eating seed sprouts.

Most seed sprouts are consumed raw and do not get any heat treatment prior to consumption which would inactivate any pathogens.

A 2005 Salmonella outbreak in Western Australia of 125 cases was linked to alfalfa sprouts as was a 2006 Salmonella outbreak of 15 cases in Victoria.

It said washing sprouts is not very effective as studies have shown that bacteria can be internalised in the sprouts, making it difficult wash off/sanitise, and bacteria can be protected in a biofilm on the surface.

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