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Australia Struggles with Egg-borne Salmonella

08/20/2019

Outbreaks of human salmonellosis were diagnosed South Australia in 2014, 2016 and  more recent and extensive outbreaks in 2017 and 2018. The relatively rare serotype Salmonella Hessarek was implicated in 96 cases between 2012 and 2016 with half of the reports emanating in South Australia. Between November 2016 and February 2017, a total of 136 Salmonella notifications was investigated by the South Australian Communicable Disease Control Branch. Traceback revealed a specific farm as the source of eggs contaminated with Salmonella Hessarek Recovery of the pathogen from within the egg indicates either penetration of the eggshell or vertical transmission.  Shell-egg rinses however did not yield Salmonella implying contamination of the yolk or albumen.

 

The implicated farm, as with many egg production units in Australia, operated free-range flocks between November 2016 and February 2017.  Decontamination of pasture is impossible and introduction of a detection and prevention program as in the U.S. industry would not be effective even with administration of an autogenous vaccine.  It would appear that if Australian consumers insist on eating egg from free-range flocks thorough cooking appears essential.  The possible application of in-shell pasteurization using a microwave system developed in South Africa would eliminate egg-borne Salmonella infection.  To justify cost, it would be necessary to transport eggs from small farms to a central packing plant equipped with a microwave pasteurizer.

 

Given the prevalence Salmonella infection in flocks housed on pasture, it is difficult to understand why a health authority has not insisted on a cold chain between the time of packing and point of sale.

 

*Kenny, B. et al A protracted outbreak of Salmonella Hessarek infection associated with one brand of eggs – South Australia, March 2017-June 2018 J.AIDS ClinRes DOI: 10.4172/2155-6113-C1-027 Joint Event - 9th International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 6th World Congress on Control and Prevention of HIV/AIDS.