Residents of Western Australia are struggling through a terrible year for stomach bugs. Just last month the Australian Institute of Food Safety reported that a record high of 713 cases of Salmonella had been recorded already in 2017.
That number has now exploded with 4076 cases of gastrointestinal disease reported so far this year, 1566 of which have been linked to the consumption of uncooked eggs.
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Omar Khorshid explains that the spike in egg-related Salmonella cases could easily have been prevented.
“Salmonella should be completely preventable because it is destroyed by cooking, and one of the biggest sources of it in the community is poultry products,” he said.
“Eggs can harbour salmonella, and while eating raw eggs can be dangerous for anyone, it is particularly so for people with impaired immunity and pregnant women.”
A spokesperson from WA Health also highlighted the need for good food safety around eggs.
“The department is concerned about food-borne illness rates in WA, including salmonella risks associated with eggs, and is implementing short and long-term reduction strategies,” she said.
“The department and local government authorities were focusing on safety surveillance across the food industry, from paddock to plate. Eggs are a good source of nutrition, but like many other foods they can be contaminated with bacteria, including salmonella. It is important people handle and prepare eggs safely to reduce the food poisoning risk.”
However, not all of the reported stomach bugs are related to Salmonella. There’s also been at least 358 cases of Rotavirus and 335 cases of Cryptosporidiosis – a parasite that’s often ingested by drinking contaminated water.
Interestingly, Western Australia doesn’t have the same strict food safety requirements as other states and territories. In many parts of Australia, at least one person in every food business must be trained to be a nationally recognised Food Safety Supervisor and take responsibility for food safety in the business.
The New South Wales Food Authority takes this one step further. Food Safety Supervisors trained in New South Wales must be specifically trained in safe egg handling as part of their training course.
With the outbreak of stomach bugs currently being experienced in WA, it remains to be seen whether they’ll start following the lead of other more food safety conscious states and territories in order to prevent such outbreaks in future.