Monday, March 03, 2014

Salmonella problem on Victorian egg farm

More than 200 people became ill after eating at restaurants supplied by an Ararat egg farm. Details are at

Problems with Salmonella are not common in Australia as most commercial farms follow strict food safety procedures.

We are always amazed at the things we see people getting away with at markets - even Farmers' Markets which claim to only have accredited stallholders .

Here's a brief run-down about Salmonella and how good operators can easily avoid the problem.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found on many farms. Chickens carry the bacteria in their bodies, and pass Salmonella into the yolk and white while eggs are being formed in the ovaries. Bacteria may be deposited on the eggshell when the egg is laid and then in the right conditions, the bacteria can pass through the shell pores into the egg itself.

Despite a common belief, cracked eggs are not generally responsible for Salmonella problems. An intact shell does not guarantee safe eggs. The key is good on-farm hygiene practices with rodent control, clean nest boxes, clean grading and packing facilities and adequate cool storage. Eggs should be clean when they are laid and regular collection and good handling practices prevent the spread of bacteria.

Any part of the egg can harbour bacteria, and both whites and yolks have been implicated in food borne illness. However, the yolk is the most common source.

Chickens can be infected with salmonella bacteria from their environment, which is easily contaminated by rodents, birds and flies. These carriers take the bacteria to all types of egg farms whether they're cage, organic or free-range. The totally controlled environment of cage systems probably makes the problem less likely there as long as feed, water storage and egg handling facilities are up to scratch.

Once the bacteria get inside the chickens, the micro organisms thrive under ideal temperature and conditions.

When the eggs have been laid, multiplication happens fast if the eggs aren't cooled quickly. And if there's a lapse in cleaning practices or an undetected outbreak among the chickens, the percentage of affected eggs can increase rapidly.

Salmonella bacteria can double every 20 minutes under ideal conditions. In an hour at room temperature, two bacteria could become 32. At two hours, there may be 1,000 organisms. At eight hours, there can be millions in one egg.

One of the big problems for consumers at markets is that eggs are often transported halfway across the State and are not kept in temperature controlled conditions. The eggs may leave the farm on Thursday or Friday for deliveries in Melbourne and some may not be sold until a Sunday market.

If those eggs are well cooked, they should present no problem – but if they are eaten raw or in an undercooked form, gastroenteritis is often the result.

According to press reports, the problems with the latest contamination issue has been a combination of poor egg handling procedures and the number of eggs laid on the floor of the sheds rather than in nest boxes. The company's answer appears to be to import an egg washing machine to wash all eggs produced on the farm.

This outbreak demonstrates why industry accreditation programs are a fiasco.

Here's the latest from Green Eggs as published:

Products from a Great Western egg farm, Green Eggs, are back in the market place following a link with a salmonella outbreak.

The Victorian Health Department linked an outbreak of gastro enteritis due to salmonella at two restaurants to raw-egg foods made from Green Eggs products.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries restricted the sale of eggs from the Great Western farm until additional cleaning and hygiene measures were in place to improve food safety. Those measures are now in place.

Owner Alan Green said the small business was devastated by the link to their product.
Mr Green said five employees had lost jobs this week because of changes made to the processing and packaging department.

He said Green Eggs were awaiting the delivery of an online washer from overseas to assist quality control.
"Eggs are now going out - they are being washed in Melbourne and are back in the market place," he said.
"Eggs already in the market place are fine but the public's safety is our number one priority."

Chief health officer Dr Rosemary Lester said people who had bought Green Eggs products from their supermarket and still had eggs in their fridge should only use them for cooked dishes and foods.
Dr Lester said thoroughly cooking eggs rendered them safe from contaminants such as salmonella.
Green Eggs supplies a range of restaurants, cafes and other eateries, farmers' markets and several supermarkets across Victoria, including A Bottle of Milk restaurant in Torquay, where 220 people ate before coming down with gastroenteritis in February.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Asia is a major egg producer

This article from World Poultry in 2009 demonstrates why there are potentially major problems for the Australian egg industry if the Australian Government signs the Trans Pacific Partnership (should an agreement be reached).

Egg production has increased significantly in many of the countries in Asia since that article was written and the importation of shell eggs into Australia is likely to be an inevitable consequence of a free trade agreement. China is by far the largest egg producer in Asia, followed by India, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

No agreement on the TPP

Many people are celebrating the lack of agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after four days of negotiations in Singapore.

It's clear that support for such a massive free trade agreement involving 12 countries is waning as some of the individual countries see little value for their own economies.  Major sticking points concern market access and differences over tariffs on imported goods.

Negotiators had initially hoped that a draft agreement would emerge from the talks and that a deal would be ready in April.

But arguments over the issues of tariffs on specific goods have proved difficult to overcome.

Agricultural tariffs are particularly sensitive for Japan, which is trying to protect its rice, wheat, beef and pork as well as dairy and sugar, from outside competition.

Some other TPP members (such as Australia) with large agricultural production available for export, are pushing for the elimination of all tariffs. Industries in some countries would be decimated by the complete removal of tariffs.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Study indicates manganese improves eggshell quality

A study in China has shown that good levels of dietary manganese in poultry diets can benefit eggshell quality.

In the first eight weeks of a 12-week feeding trial, all hens in the study were fed a diet that met all nutrient requirements except for manganese. In the last four weeks of the trial, each group was fed one of three diets supplemented with manganese levels at 0, 25 or 100 mg/kg. Dietary manganese deficiency did not affect overall egg performance but supplementation significantly improved breaking strength, thickness and the toughness of eggshells.

This study indicated that dietary manganese supplementation improves eggshell quality by enhancing the quality and strength of the eggshell membrane, which affects the structure of eggshells.

Dietary manganese is found in whole grains, including soy beans, green leafy vegetables and pumpkin seeds.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Egg stamping starts in November

The Piccolo, a six egg stanper. 30 egg and single egg stampers are also available as well
as inket or laser printers to fit on grading machines.

Time is running out for egg producers to meet the November deadline for stamping all eggs with a farm identification code.

Many farms have already started looking at what suits their businesses, and some have begun stamping already – but there seem to be quite a few who haven't yet begun their research.

A wide range of options is available for all sizes of egg producers – starting at around $50 for hand stampers for single eggs, six at a time or 30 egg trays.

Then there are inkjet printers which can be attached to graders starting at around $2000 – or even laser printers which don't require ink.

Details, including videos of a range of options is on the Freeranger website for Freeranger Club members.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Trans-Pacific Partnership dead in the water?

It's gradually looking like the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement will be scuttled. More than 120 US Congressmen have written to the US Trade Representative in Washington (Michael Froman) expressing concern that the TPP may weaken environmental protections.

This prompted Ilana Solomon, Director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, to release the following statement:
"Members of Congress have sent a clear message that they will not accept a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal if it lacks a fully enforceable and robust environment chapter.

"Recently leaked documents show us that while the U.S. government is pushing to strengthen conservation elements of the chapter, it’s also pushing to weaken rules related to climate disruption and biodiversity.

“An acceptable environment chapter must address many challenges -- from trade in illegally harvested timber to harmful practices like shark finning -- and would need to be supported by a full trade deal that doesn’t cut away at progress that has been made to keep our air, water, and land clean.

That means negotiators should reject the dispute resolution process that gives corporations unfettered rights, and the U.S. government should push to ensure foreign companies don’t seize control of American gas exports and open the floodgate to more dangerous fracking.”

Hopefully discussions currently underway in Singapore will fail.

Friday, February 21, 2014

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says human patients infected with avian 'flu won't infect poultry

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says there is no evidence that human patients infected with H7N9 avian influenza can transmit the virus to animals. FAO referred to the first human case of H7N9 outside China, which was recently detected in Malaysia.
The patient, originally from Guangdong Province in China was visiting Malaysia as a tourist and has been hospitalized. Guangdong is one of the Chinese provinces most affected by the H7N9 virus.
"This case does not come as a surprise and should not be a cause for increased concern, but should remind the world to remain vigilant," said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth. "Humans that become ill with H7N9 constitute no threat to poultry," Lubroth said.
"We have no evidence that affected people could transmit the virus to other species, including birds. The highest risk of virus introduction is uncontrolled live poultry trade between affected and unaffected areas."
People become infected following close contact with infected live poultry, mostly in live bird markets or when slaughtering birds at home.
WHO risk assessments show that should infected people from affected areas travel internationally, community spread is unlikely since the virus does not have the ability to transmit easily among humans.
Lubroth observed that "Such 'imported' human cases, like the one reported in Malaysia last week, have been found in the past in previously unaffected areas of China, like Guizhou, Taiwan Province of China and Hong Kong SAR, and we will likely continue to see this in the not too distant future again. To date the virus has not been found in poultry populations outside affected areas in China."
Birds that have contracted H7N9 do not show clinical signs, which renders early detection of the virus in poultry populations more difficult.
FAO is focusing on high risk countries, facilitating risk assessment, contingency planning, expansion of diagnostic capabilities and risk-based surveillance.