Infectious Diseases 2020

Infectious Diseases 2020

Australia: Annual food testing report 2018-2019

1 October, 2020

Raw poultry verification program: The raw poultry verification program gathers ongoing data on the prevalence and levels of Campylobacter and Salmonella in raw poultry. Samples of raw poultry were collected from processing facilities and retailers in NSW and tested for Campylobacter and Salmonella. Between July 2018 and June 2019, a total of 196 whole chickens and chicken portions were collected from processing plants and 312 chicken portions were collected from retail outlets. Fourteen samples collected from retailers were not included in the data analysis due to loss of temperature control during transportation. At the processing plants, Salmonella was detected in 21.4% of samples and Campylobacter was detected in 86.7% of samples. At retail, 25.8% of samples tested positive for Salmonella and Campylobacter was detected in 89.9% of samples. 
Foodborne illness investigations: The Food Authority investigates suspected cases of foodborne illness in partnership with NSW Ministry of Health, local councils, and interstate agencies. Between July 2018 and June 2019, a total of 4,010 food and environmental samples were submitted for testing in response to foodborne illness investigations and their follow up activities. Two notable outbreaks are outlined below:
Salmonella Enteritidis investigation linked to eggs: Since mid-2018, a steady increase in the number of cases of SE illness in humans was observed. These cases have been epidemiologically linked to a locally acquired outbreak of SE illness with most cases reported in NSW. To support the investigation into this illness outbreak, over 100 locally produced and imported foods as well as environmental samples were initially tested for the presence of Salmonella. Foods tested included fresh and dried vegetables, seafood, spices, egg-containing foods, nuts and eggs. Environmental samples consisted of swabs, stock feed, water and poultry faecal samples as well as eggs. Samples were collected from a range of settings including food businesses, supermarkets and egg primary production businesses. During the investigation a further 2,072 samples from egg primary production businesses were tested including eggs and environmental samples. As a result, SE was found on thirteen properties which were interconnected by movements of people, eggs or equipment. As part of the response to the outbreak, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) increased surveillance and monitoring at egg farms and issued biosecurity directions to individual properties where necessary, including quarantining of the premises to prevent the movement of eggs into the marketplace. Other actions taken included farm depopulation, decontamination and disinfection. Affected properties are unable to recommence egg production until required biosecurity and food safety standards are met. As a result of the detection of SE, there were 6 consumer level recalls of eggs from implicated properties in NSW and one consumer level recall in Victoria. 
Salmonella Typhimurium investigation linked to an egg farm: Salmonella Typhimurium (the most common serovar linked to foodborne illness in Australia) declined by 65% in NSW between 2014 and 2018, as part of efforts to reduce total foodborne salmonellosis by 30% under the NSW Food Safety Strategy 2015-2021. However, Salmonella Typhimurium cases plateaued or increased slightly in 2018-19. Much of this increase was found by genetic analysis to be linked to a single egg farm, which was the source of approximately 20% of all Salmonella Typhimurium cases in NSW. Several visits to the farm detected the same type of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to the human cluster. Illness was exacerbated further down the supply chain by poor handling of eggs in some businesses, including failure to clean and sanitise surfaces or equipment, and use of raw egg products. The farm implemented additional cleaning and sanitising of farm grading equipment and is looking at vaccination of birds to reduce Salmonella Typhimurium. These measures appear to have been successful, with a significant decrease in the type of salmonellosis cases in NSW.