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Salmonella spike prompts health alert

A reported 1256 cases of salmonella in Queensland so far this year has prompted Queensland Health to issue an alert to businesses involved in food preparation, and the community as a whole.

Executive Director of the Health Protection Directorate, Sophie Dwyer said the figure was 2.5 times what would normally be expected.

"Almost half of the cases reported this year have been from the Salmonella Typhimurium strain, with the majority (80 per cent) being reported in south east Queensland."

"Salmonella Typhimurium has caused eight outbreaks of foodborne disease in South East Queensland since mid-December 2014, which is double the number of outbreaks we have investigated for the same period in recent years.

"These figures show the vital need for food handlers to be aware of food safety procedures.

"For this reason, we have asked all local councils to provide all food handlers in their catchments with our advice on the top causes of salmonella and how to best avoid it."

The main issues observed during investigations into recent food borne illness outbreaks were:

• Egg wash that had been topped up, used multiple times and kept at room temperature for long periods of time.

• Raw eggs products such as mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise, mousse and tiramisu prepared too far in advance and not refrigerated.

• Inadequate cleaning and sanitation throughout food businesses.

• Cross contamination of bacteria via tea towels and other equipment.

Queensland Health advises those businesses providing food to vulnerable members of the population – particularly young children, patients in hospitals and older people and people with impaired immune systems - to be extra vigilant.

The top five tips from Queensland Health on ensuring food safety are:

• Always wash hands before and after handling eggs and raw chicken

• Prevent cross contamination by using separate chopping boards, tongs, knives, containers and other equipment when storing, preparing, handling and cooking raw and ready to eat food.

• Cook chicken thoroughly so that there is no pink meat and the juices run clear.

• Uncooked food that contains raw eggs are a high risk, therefore consider using pasteurised egg products.

• Ensure food is stored below 5 degrees Celsius and is returned to the refrigerator within two hours.

For advice on salmonella and safe food handling, visit the Queensland Health website:

Last updated: 23 February 2015