Almost 30 people fell sick after eating a duck brioche canapé at a wedding in Australia in 2022, according to a study recently released.

It is likely that inadequate cooking of duck liver for the parfait was the contributing factor that led to the illnesses.

This highlights the risks posed by undercooked poultry dishes, and shows the education of food handlers remains a priority, said researchers in the journal Communicable Diseases Intelligence.

Two serious infections
In March 2022, the Victorian Department of Health was notified of gastrointestinal illness in 20 of 212 guests following a wedding reception. Two people were laboratory-confirmed Campylobacter jejuni cases.

A retrospective case-control study was done to find the likely source of infection. A total of 29 wedding guests met the case definition. They reported the onset of illness two to five days following the event and symptoms included abdominal cramping, diarrhea, headache, and fever.

A couple of people were hospitalized. Two patients experienced secondary complications, including a probable case of irritable bowel syndrome and a probable case with neurological sequelae suspected to be Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Sixteen patients were men and 13 were women. They were more likely to be younger than controls with a median age of 29 and a range of 18 to 69 years old.

Illness was significantly associated with the consumption of a duck breast with apple relish brioche canapé containing duck liver parfait but no leftover food samples were available for testing. Fourteen sick people said they did not eat this item, so cross-contamination could have played a role, said researchers.

“While there were reports of staff not wearing gloves and mixing dishes by hand at the wedding venue, the risk of cross-contamination was likely higher at the central production kitchen where equipment used to whip the paté into parfait may have been used on other ready-to-eat foods. The raw duck breast was also washed prior to cooking, which may have contaminated the sink and other surfaces.”

Investigation findings
Local environmental health officers (EHOs) inspected three premises managed by the catering group that provided food for the wedding. These included the outbreak venue; the central production kitchen where most foods had been prepared; and the premises where duck liver paté was manufactured and supplied to use for the parfait in the duck canapé.

Paté supplied to the wedding had been prepared more than two months prior, so no livers from the same batch were available for testing. It is unclear if the livers were cooked in a water bath or pan-fried. No temperature records were kept or were available for the batch supplied to the wedding to confirm the reported process, according to the study.

Environmental swabs of blending and sieving equipment at the manufacturer’s premises were requested but not obtained. Food preparation was done on a large bench and knives were washed in the sink and wiped between use but not sanitized.

“Several processes at the central production kitchen were ambiguous, including how the duck breast was cold smoked; whether kitchen equipment used to whip the paté was used to prepare other food items; and the details of cleaning and sanitization protocols for the whipping/blending equipment,” said researchers.

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