Food safety scare sees raw egg warning issued to foodservice businesses

Posted by Editorial on 1st February 2010

Consumers, cafés and restaurants need to be aware of the potential health risks associated with eating poorly handled raw egg products, NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan has warned.The advice was issued following confirmation of a Salmonella outbreak associated with a food retailer in Albury that saw over 130 people reporting to local health authorities with food poisoning symptoms after eating at the outlet. Some of the victims required hospitalisation.

“Investigations by NSW Food Authority officers have confirmed that a home made aioli product made with raw eggs at the premises has tested positive to Salmonella,” Minister Whan said. “Eggs are a delicious and nutritious food that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet but it is vital people are aware of how to prepare them safely.

“Eggs can sometimes carry Salmonella bacteria and eating raw egg product, like any raw foods from animals can present a risk of food poisoning.”

The NSW Food Authority advises the following to ensure people can safely enjoy eggs:

* buy clean eggs free from cracks
* cook foods containing eggs until hot all the way through
* do not serve foods containing raw egg to children under 2, people over 65, pregnant women or people with a serious illness
* keep eggs in their carton in the fridge
* check use by dates, and
* treat eggs with care and remember to clean utensils and equipment after contact with raw eggs.

“The risk does tend to increase when restaurants and cafes prepare large batches of raw egg deserts such as mousses or tiramisu, or sauces such as aioli, hollandaise and mayonnaise,” Minister Whan added. “It is important for business to understand the risk of these products and be extra careful when preparing them.”

‘The NSW Food Authority strongly recommends businesses:

* offer safer alternatives such as commercially manufactured mayonnaises and sauces,or
* use pasteurised egg products for preparation of such foods as an alternative to raw egg.

“If businesses still insist on using raw eggs, they can reduce the risk by making small batches of such foods and using immediately or refrigerating,” the Minister suggested.

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated event; preliminary OzFoodNet data has reported 14 significant outbreaks across Australia, resulting in hundreds of cases of illness in the last year alone which have been linked to the use of raw egg based food.

“In addition to the recent Albury incident, another case was reported to authorities earlier this year after five family members became ill, one hospitalised, after they all consumed a homemade raw egg based mayonnaise used in a dish served during a family function.

“Recent figures from preliminary OzFoodNet data reveal that of the outbreaks associated with eggs in NSW, 70% were attributed to raw egg based products such as mayonnaise, desserts and sauces.”