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14/12/17: Salmonella poisoning warning

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Salmonella is more likely to flourish in the warmer months.

Australian Health authorities are warning people to take precautions to prevent salmonella poisonings, with 201 cases already reported in late November as temperatures start to climb.

Gastroenteritis diseases including salmonellosis were more prevalent in summer when the warmer weather allowed bacteria to thrive in food.

NSW recorded its worst figures for salmonella poisonings for at least five years in 2016, with a record 4,445 cases of salmonellosis. A total of 1391 salmonellosis cases were reported in NSW last summer.

Statistics released in January showed 2016 was the worst year on record for diseases including legionnaires’ disease, salmonellosis, listeriosis, E. coli and dengue fever, which flourish in warmer conditions.

Salmonellosis was caused by the bacteria salmonella found in animal products.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Directors of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health said salmonellosis can be quite severe and people sometimes need to be hospitalised for dehydration, particularly in young babies, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Salmonellosis symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting around six to 72 hours after eating contaminated food and usually last for four to seven days, but can continue for much longer.

“It is important that people do not prepare food for others while they are unwell with salmonellosis and, as a precaution, for 48 hours after symptoms have passed,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but antibiotics are required in complicated cases.

Dr Sheppeard said the best defence against salmonellosis was careful food preparation and food storage.

“Products containing undercooked eggs, and the spread of germs in the kitchen, are the most common source of salmonellosis outbreaks in NSW.”

Cooking food thoroughly kills the bacteria, Dr Sheppeard said.

The longer food is left at room temperature the more the Salmonella bacteria will multiply, and food should not be left out in the heat.

Refrigerated food should be kept at less than five degrees Celsius and hot foods should be kept above 60 degrees Celsius, NSW Health advised.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said using commercially produced products instead of handmade mayonnaise and sauces when preparing food also reduced the risk of Salmonella poisoning.

“It is also much safer to use commercially pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs in ready-to-eat products such as desserts and dressings,” DrSzabo said.

Dr Szabo said NSW businesses must comply with strict requirements around the use of raw eggs in foods, which prohibits the sale of eggs with dirty or cracked shells, that can increase the risk of contamination.

Consumers should reject any eggs that are not intact, she said.

“While preparing and handling food, keep benches and utensils clean and dry and do not allow cross contamination of raw and cooked products.”

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