National

Salmonella outbreak spreads as numbers of infected increase

By Neelima Choahan

Up to a 100 people nationwide may now be affected by the salmonella outbreak linked to pre-packaged salad sold at Coles and Woolworths.

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Salmonella cases on the increase

More cases of salmonella have been reported in Victoria, with numbers expected to rise. (Vision Network Ten News)

Authorities launched an investigation on Tuesday after becoming aware of a spike of 28 cases in Victoria of the rare infection.

Coles and Woolworths have issued an urgent recall of the affected products supplied by Tripod Farmers in Bacchus March. 

Salad leaves at Tripod Farmers in Bacchus Marsh.
Salad leaves at Tripod Farmers in Bacchus Marsh. Photo: Justin McManus

On Friday, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services' senior medical adviser, Dr Finn Romanes, said the confirmed cases of the rare Salmonella anatum​ strain had risen to 54 in Victoria.

Australian health departments met on Friday night to review the situation. 

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In a statement released on Saturday morning, the Federal Department of Health chief medical officer said Victoria continued to be the worst affected. 

"The department convened a meeting of OzFoodNet, Australia's enhanced food-borne disease surveillance system, yesterday, bringing together representatives of all Australian health departments as well as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to consider whether reports of salmonella would benefit from national co-ordination," it said.

Four Tripod Farmer salads have been recalled.
Four Tripod Farmer salads have been recalled. 

"Victorian health authorities had reported 54 cases of Salmonella anatum infection linked to the consumption of mixed salad products. This figure has, of today, increased to 62 cases."

"Food histories" were yet to be conducted to establish any links to the mixed salad products.

One of the Coles salads included in the recall.
One of the Coles salads included in the recall.  Photo: Supplied

"Other states and territories are examining up to 30 possible cases of Salmonella anatum infection."

But it is yet to be determined if these cases were linked to the outbreak strain in Victoria.

One of the Coles salads included in the recall.
One of the Coles salads included in the recall.  

The salads were sold at Coles, Woolworths, Bi-Lo and other grocers as Coles 4 Leaf Mix, Woolworths salad mix, SupaSalad Supamix and Wash N Toss salad mix.

Woolworths Gourmet mix 100g, Supa Salad ALH, 1kg, Clear Film Blend, Clear Film Spinach and Clear Film Cos were also added to the list on Friday.

Tripod Farmer's SupaSalad Supamix has been recalled.
Tripod Farmer's SupaSalad Supamix has been recalled.  

The contaminated products had best-before dates up to and including February 14 and were sold in all mainland Australian states and territories except Western Australia, though Victoria was worst affected. 

Lite n' Easy, Aussie Farmers Direct, Mentone Girls' Grammar and 7-Eleven were some of the other outlets who had sold food containing the infected products. 

Earlier, Tripod Farmers managing director Frank Ruffo​ said authorities had inspected its Bacchus Marsh processing plant and no further contamination had been detected.

Consumers are advised not to eat the recalled product, and to return it to the place of purchase for a full cash refund. If concerned, they should also seek medical advice from their doctor.

Paul Brockhoff said his entire family had been sick after consuming Coles baby spinach leaves. He contracted food poisoning on January 21 and was unwell for four days.

On Wednesday, his two children, aged six and four, also came down with the illness, and his wife soon followed.

"We haven't been able to isolate it to any of the identified products, though we have a bag of Coles baby spinach leaves in the fridge that we are eyeing with growing suspicion," Mr Brockhoff said.

"The children had some of that and some salami, so we initially thought it might have been down to the cold meat."

Vicki Norman said she had to be rushed to the hospital after having eaten a baby spinach and salad mix from Woolworths.

"I have a spinach omelette nearly every day," Ms Norman said. 

"Last Friday night, I started to feel unwell, really bad headache, vomiting the whole time, went to the doctors on Monday ... I am still unwell.

"I feel like I am dying."

Ms Norman said she was yet to get a conclusive stool test, but her doctor had said the symptoms indicated food poisoning and could take up to 21 days to clear. 

"It is horrific," she said.

"The chest pain makes you feel as if you are having a heart attack."

Tripod Farmers managing director Frank Ruffo said the company had suspended some "farming and processing" operations while investigations were continuing.

"Tripod Farmers is expecting further test results early next week in its search to determine and fix the cause of salmonella contamination," Mr Ruffo said.

"The detections of salmonella were part of routine testing on product as part of the company's standard food safety and quality program.

"In the interests of public safety, we have recalled the entire production batches from which the positive samples were detected."

Mr Ruffo said they were working closely with health authorities to determine the cause and extent of the problem, and with their customers to manage an effective recall.

"The company apologises to everyone affected by the recall, and thanks the public for the way it is responding to the recall," he said.

"The company is focused on the health and safety of consumers, establishing the cause of the problem, and fixing it."

A full list of recalled salads can be seen at www.foodstandstards.gov.au.