When people started getting sick from a particularly potent strain of salmonella last year, a team of experts rushed to try to trace the source of the outbreak.
- Salmonella enteritidis (SE) is worse than other forms of the bacteria because it infects the hen’s ovaries, meaning the bacteria is deposited inside eggs
- Other forms of salmonella are just found on the outside of eggs and human illness can be avoided by washing them and discarding those with cracked shells
- SE is found in egg industries around the world, but until last year Australian farms were free of the harmful bacteria
Investigation is the key to managing and containing an outbreak’s impact — for consumers, farmers and entire industries, which can be brought to their knees if things go badly.
But investigators depend on people’s memories of what they’ve eaten, making it a seemingly impossible task.
A few weeks after being interviewed, one of those people remembered they had a frozen meringue cake in their freezer, leftover from a birthday party, around the time they got sick.
Officers went to that person’s home, collected the cake and had it tested.
“We were able to isolate the salmonella enteritidis and it had that same whole genome sequence. At the same time we could see who manufactured that cake,” Ms Szabo said.