Australia: Heatwave linked to outbreak of food poisoning

Source of Article:  http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/heatwave-linked-to-outbreak-of-food-poisoning/2009/02/05/1233423405360.html

Adele Horin
February 6, 2009

WHEN Sydney suffered its heatwave over the Australia Day long weekend, more than 20 elderly people at an upmarket Narrabeen aged-care facility were taken ill with food poisoning and five were hospitalised.

The source of the outbreak is believed to be a hollandaise sauce that used raw egg, although the NSW Food Authority is still waiting for conclusive test results.

A spokesman for the authority said if the sauce was found to have been the culprit, the hot weather on the day would have contributed to the growth of bacteria.

The suspected food poisoning occurred on Friday, January 23, when the temperature reached nearly 32 degrees at the RSL Anzac Village at Narrabeen. The high-quality village provides 750 independent living units as well as places for 500 people in nursing home or hostel level care.

Residents from the independent living units and some staff who attended a function in the recreation centre were affected by diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps after they had eaten veal with hollandaise sauce. Some were taken to the Mona Vale and Mosman hospitals and the Sanatorium hospital in Wahroonga.

A spokesman for Dr Michael Staff, manager of the public health unit at Northern Sydney Central Coast Health, said the incident had been reported to NSW Health as required.

A relative of a resident who had eaten the food at the village said she had found her mother delirious and dehydrated on the Sunday morning after she had struggled through 41-degree heat on the Saturday. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and "barrier nursed" to present contagion.

A statement from the home's management said sufficient staff were on duty over the long weekend to cope with normal workload and extra were called in to help the residents in need.

"Village management apologises unreservedly to all people affected by this unfortunate incident and continues to work with the public health unit to trace the source," the statement said.

It said the village served more than 200,000 meals a year and this was the first known episode of gastric upset relating to food services "in living memory".

The Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, issued a warning about the potential health risks from eating food that contained raw or lightly cooked eggs. He said the Government was launching an education campaign in view of a consumer survey by the Food Authority that showed people did not understand how to safely cook or store eggs.

Eggs were a nutritious food but "if they are not properly prepared, eggs can cause food poisoning", he said.

 

 

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