Uncooked curry leaves caused mass outbreak of salmonella in Newcastle, say health officials

 

Uncooked curry leaves in a chutney left more than 400 people who ate at a street food festival with diarrhoea and vomiting or salmonella poisoning, health officials have found.

The leaves were contaminated with several different bacteria, experts found, which led to 29 confirmed cases of salmonella at the Street Spice Festival in Newcastle in February and March.

An investigation by Public Health England and Newcastle City Council found 25 of the 29 cases had developed a strain of salmonella never found in people or food in this country before.

According to an official report, further laboratory analysis suggested other organisms may also have caused illness including E.coli and Shigella.

Some of the 413 affected were found to have more than one of these infections at the same time.

No-one will face prosecution because there was seen to be a lack of clear advice about the dangers of using raw curry leaves in recipes, and in general hygiene levels at the three-day event were good.

Dr Kirsty Foster, chair of the outbreak control team and consultant in health protection with PHE said: "This was one of the largest outbreaks of gastro-intestinal illness associated with herbs or spices in the country.

"In addition, it was the first time one of the strains of salmonella was detected in the UK.

"However, herbs and spices are known to be potential sources of salmonella and other organisms, and have been reported in scientific literature as the source of infection in a number of outbreaks across the country.

"But it is unclear whether there is widespread understanding among food handlers and the public about the potential for infection when using these products raw.

"That is why we have reported our findings to the Food Standards Agency, recommending that advice is developed for the food industry and the public about the use of raw curry leaves.

"While this is being developed, our advice to the public is to cook curry leaves thoroughly if they are to be used in recipes and to be aware of the risk of infection if using them raw."

Stephen Savage, Newcastle City Council's director of regulation and public protection said: "Our environmental health officers have worked very closely with experts in health protection since the outbreak of this illness.

"We have carried out extensive investigations and tests and have identified the source of this outbreak as being imported contaminated curry leaves used raw in a chutney.

"Having carefully considered the facts, we have decided against formal action in this case.

"This decision, based on our enforcement policy, takes into account the lack of clear, official advice about the use of curry leaves and the overall good standards of food hygiene at the festival.

"We have recommended to the Food Standards Agency that they should develop information to be circulated nationally about the preparation of curry leaves and other herbs.

"We will ensure that this advice is given to the local restaurant trade.

"We will carry out further work with the Food Standards Agency and Public Health England to examine more closely the extent of contamination in curry leaves and other herbs imported from abroad.

"We are also recommending to the Food Standards Agency that awareness is raised with importers, exporters and port health authorities about the labelling, and in particular the instructions for use of curry leaves and other herbs."

Dr Foster thanked the hundreds of customers who contacted the inquiry team after the outbreak.

"I would also like to thank the festival organisers who co-operated fully with the investigation at all times, under very difficult circumstances," she added.

PA

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?