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Urgent outbreak warning on common food

The bacteria has been detected in meat from M&J Chickens.
The bacteria has been detected in meat from M&J Chickens.

Health authorities have issued a listeria warning for a common chicken product after it was linked to a listeria outbreak in multiple states.

Shredded chicken breast from M & J Chickens has been named the probable cause of the Listeria cases in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, Queensland Health investigators said.

Restaurants, cafes and hospitals have been warned to stop using the shredded chicken product after it was linked to nine cases across the three states.

The Queensland listeria cases are believed to have come from Brisbane hospitals that served the chicken.

The bacteria has been detected in meat from M&J Chickens.
The bacteria has been detected in meat from M&J Chickens, Queensland Health says.

Health authorities had been racing to track down the origin of the listeria contamination after the cases across the country were found to be genetically linked.

Queensland Health Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said the strain of Listeria found in the chicken samples was the same as the strain isolated from patients in Queensland.

“This cluster includes four cases that were probably acquired at the Mater Hospital, with the fifth case possibly acquired at Redcliffe Hospital,” Dr Gerrard said.

“An official food recall is likely to follow but for now, any business or individual in possession of the product should stop using it.

“Queensland public hospitals are being instructed not to use this product.”

The virus is transmitted through food contaminated with listeria bacteria, like soft cheeses, pre-packaged food and chilled seafood and meat.

Shredded chicken from M&J Chickens is believed to be behind the outbreak.
Restaurants and cafes who have purchased the shredded chicken product have been told to stop using it.

Although it usually only presents as a mild illness in health people, it can cause septicaemia and/or meningitis in vulnerable patients.

People who are immunocompromised, diabetic, the elderly, pregnant or have a history of alcohol abuse are at the highest risk of serious illness.

NSW is also on high alert for listeriosis as 25 cases are detected as of September 9, a figure that’s closer to what the state “usually” sees in a whole year according to NSW Health’s Keira Glasgow.

“There are a range of foods that present very real risks to people who are older, pregnant or have underlying health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart, liver, or kidney disease, or who are on medications such as corticosteroids which impact immune systems,” she said.

“That’s why NSW Health is reminding these vulnerable people to be aware of the foods that present these risks. It’s vital these people choose safer options at all times.”

Soft cheeses like brie, and camembert are also a potential carrier of listeria. Picture: iStock
Soft cheeses like brie, and camembert are also a potential carrier of listeria. Picture: iStock

NSW Health advised people who were vulnerable to serious infection to avoid foods including:

– Cold delicatessen meats (freshly sliced, pre-packaged or from sandwich bars)

– Pre-cooked cold chicken (whole, portions or diced)

– Smoked seafood (for example, smoked salmon), unless cooked and served hot

– Chilled or raw seafood (for example, ready-to-eat prawns)

– Rockmelon, and pre-cut fruit or pre-prepared fruit, including fruit salad (pre-packaged, buffets or salad bars)

– Prepacked cold salads, including coleslaw (pre-packaged, buffets or salad bars)

– Frozen vegetables, unless cooked

– Pâté or meat spreads

– Unpasteurised milk or milk products

– Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, or blue-vein (unless cooked and eaten while hot)

– Soft serve ice cream

– Sprouted seeds