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Raw eggs in Hollandaise sauce suspected as source of outbreak

Michigan officials are investigating an egg producer in connection with a Salmonella outbreak linked to Hollandaise sauce made with unpasteurized raw eggs and served at an unidentified restaurant.

Marquette County, MI, health officials announced their investigation into the June outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis on Friday, but did not include any specific details.

Instead the news release from the Marquette County Health Department reminded the public “many foodborne illnesses increase during the warm summer months as people picnic and have outdoor family gatherings,” and offered tips for avoiding food poisoning at such events.

But the outbreak, which includes four confirmed victims and at least four probable victims, is linked to food served at a restaurant, said Patrick L. Jacuzzo, Marquette County director of environmental health.

Jacuzzo described the outbreak as “restaurant associated” and said the assumption as of Friday afternoon was that raw, unpasteurized eggs served in Hollandaise sauce with eggs Benedict were the source.

Six of the eight victims dined at the restaurant and five of them specifically recall eating the Hollandaise sauce. Three of the four lab-confirmed victims were among the restaurant diners. Jacuzzo said the four confirmed victims all had the same Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern, meaning they were infected with the same strain of Salmonella.

“The Michigan Department of Agriculture is investigating the egg producer and testing their eggs, but the test results aren’t back yet,” Jacuzzo told Food Safety News on Friday.

Jacuzzo did not volunteer the name of the egg producer or the name of the restaurant. He said the health department did not have access to any food samples served at the restaurant during the outbreak timeframe to test.

Officials at the state agriculture department were not immediately Friday afternoon for comment on the investigation.

Anyone who has eaten Hollandaise sauce at any restaurant in Marquette County, MI, and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors of the possible exposure to the proper diagnostic tests can be preformed.

Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and sometimes fever and usually develop 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. Serious and sometimes fatal infections and side effects occur in children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

The Marquette County news release urged the public to practice safe eating habits to avoid Salmonella food poisoning:

  • Do not eat or drink foods containing raw or undercooked eggs. Examples include homemade eggnog, hollandaise sauce, and undercooked French toast. Eggs should be cooked until they reach 145 degrees F or until the yoke is solid. Pasteurized eggs are available in some grocery stores.
  • Remember that it is allowable for restaurants to serve items that include undercooked foods such as rare meat or runny eggs; as long as they warn you that undercooked foods may make you ill. This information is contained in a “menu advisory.” When dining out you should review your menu and be aware of items that may be undercooked. If unsure, ask your waiter.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs in a restaurant or at a gathering, don’t hesitate to ask that the food be cooked further. If you choose to eat undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs you are placing yourself at risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
  • Never drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or cider.

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