Eggs recalled after yet another salmonella contamination alert

There has already been two major egg recalls in 2019 due to salmonella fears.

There has already been two major egg recalls in 2019 due to salmonella fears. Photo: Getty

The Australian egg industry is scrambling to maintain consumer confidence with yet another egg recall for possible salmonella contamination announced on Saturday.

It’s the third recall of potential salmonella contamination in as many weeks, with the New South Wales Food Authority warning eggs sold in two Australian states have been withdrawn from food retailers.

Synergy Produce is recalling six and 12 packs of Southern Highland Organic Eggs with best-before dates up to and including May 9.

“Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice and should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund,” the NSW Food Authority stated on its website.

Supermarket shelves in NSW and Victoria are clearing Southern Highland Organic Eggs in response to the recall.

The eggs have been available for sale in Woolworths in NSW and Victoria, as well as IGA and other independent retailers in NSW.

Phil Westwood of Freeranger Eggs in Grantville, South Gippsland in Victoria’s east, told The New Daily the frequency of egg recalls in recent weeks was “phenomenal”.

“The recall hasn’t been investigated properly yet to find out how the contamination occurred, while there is speculation at the moment,” Mr Westwood said.

Egg safety scramble

This year, salmonella-contaminated eggs have plagued the egg industry with two major incidents in March alone.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand issued a recall for Ash and Sons Eggs sold in IGA supermarkets, independent stores, butcher and bakeries across the state on March 28.

The recall included Blue Mountains free range and cage-free eggs 700 grams, Fresh Eggs From My Farm 800 grams and Farm Fresh Eggs 600, 700 and 800 grams.

It followed a recall seven days earlier of eggs laid at northern Victorian farm, Bridgewater Poultry, and sold under various labels, including Woolworths’ own-brand free-range and barn-laid eggs.

The eggs infected five people between 20 and 80 years old with an “exotic” strain of salmonella.

Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton described the ‘Salmonella Enteritidis’ strain of that particular scare as the “cane toad of salmonella”.

“It is not a normal organism found in eggs in Victoria, indeed Australia,” he said at the time.

What’s behind the salmonella outbreaks?

New South Wales Food Authority has not yet investigated the reasons for the “potential microbial” contamination, but tongues are already wagging to find which eggs are the bad eggs.

Victorian Farmers Federation egg group vice-president, Brian Ahmed, told The New Daily it was only a matter of time until egg producers went back to farming practices of the 1960s and 70s.

Mr Ahmed said caged eggs – as opposed to free-range-eggs – kept hens in a contained environment, reducing the risk of disease.

He said caged hens had less contact with vermin and other wild animals and didn’t step in their own faeces due to the wire floors of their cages.

“I know people don’t want to hear it, but chickens need to be taken off the ground and separated from their faeces if people want safe food products,” Mr Ahmed said.

“We need systems that meet the needs of consumers, and consumers need to understand the pros and cons of the systems when buying their food.”


Woolworths free-range eggs. Photo: AAP

However, Mr Westwood said free-range eggs weren’t behind salmonella contamination and pointed out current legislated hen stocking density rates.

Australian consumer law, in effect since 2018, allows egg producers to run a maximum of 10,000 hens per hectare of land.

The number is far higher than densities proposed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council, as published by the CSIRO, which recommends just 1500 hens per hectare.

“Free-range hasn’t created this problem. It’s the definition of free-range at 10,000 hens per a hectare,” Mr Westwood told The New Daily.

“With hens producing about half a cubic metre of manure a year, that’s 5000 cubic metres of manure a year per hectare.

“It’s bound to cause some sickness … it’s bound to.”

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