Recent reports show that foodborne illness rates in Australia are falling except for Salmonella. According to an Aug. 12, 2015, story posted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, there has been a 50-percent increase in Salmonella infections in Victoria since 2012, and Salmonella infections have doubled in Queensland so far this year.
Salmonella bacteria can be found in soil and water and multiplies rapidly if food is not handled properly, including washing and refrigeration. As a result, the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia New Zealand, an independent industry-led non-profit, has released some new guidelines to enhance food safety produce standards. The Hepatitis A outbreak earlier this year linked to frozen berries imported by Patties Foods, which experts agree was preventable, focused attention on food safety in Australia. “It made 30 people ill. It could have had significantly greater impact if it wasn’t nipped in the bud as it was,” said Richard Bennett, technology manager for the Fresh Produce Safety Centre and the Fresh Produce Marketing Australia New Zealand. Consumption of imported frozen berries in Australia is currently about 30 percent of what it was before the Hep A outbreak. Nationwide figures reveal that foodborne illnesses in Australia slowed from 4.3 million cases per year in 2000 to 4.1 million in 2010 even though supply chains have become more complex and the shelf life of foods has been increased. The main problem in the country is viewed as microbial contamination, said Joseph Ekman, technical director of Fresh Produce Group, a private fruit company, who helped to develop the new food safety guidelines. “If there’s a food safety issue, it doesn’t just affect all growers, not just one retailer or grower. Consumers get the message that that product is risky,” he noted. The new guidelines state that, “While salmonella bacteria are most commonly associated with livestock and chickens, they have also been responsible for food safety outbreaks associated with fresh produce.”
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