Health authorities still don’t know the cause of a salmonella outbreak linked to pre-packaged lettuce from a Victorian farming company.
But Tripod Farmers has been given the go-ahead by authorities to resume business after a site inspection.
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services has received reports of 54 cases of the rare salmonella anatum strain and expects that number to grow.
“This is a serious outbreak,” senior medical adviser Finn Romanes told reporters on Friday.
“I do expect … that we’ll probably see more people.”
The outbreak is linked to pre-packed lettuce distributed by Tripod Farmers, but it’s unclear what could have caused it.
“The system has excellent critical control points and a triple-washing process, but at the moment we don’t have any information back yet to identify a specific cause,” Dr Romanes said.
Investigations are under way to determine whether a contaminated water supply, fertiliser or something else at the Bacchus Marsh facility could be to blame.
The Victorian health department was first made aware of people getting sick in late December but noticed a sharp increase on February 2.
The department was then able to link the outbreak to the Bacchus Marsh factory.
Six people in South Australia have also been diagnosed with the same strain of salmonella.
Queensland health authorities believe seven reported cases in the state may be linked to the same pre-packaged lettuce.
The company has recalled 30 retail products sold at supermarkets, as well as wholesale products.
The recalled lettuce mixes with any best-before date up to February 14 should be returned to the store, or thrown out.
The outbreak was first thought to affect only pre-packaged lettuce sold at supermarkets, but diet company Lite n’ Easy are also warning the lettuce recall will affect some lunches in their menu this week.
Sandwiches sold at 7-Eleven outlets have also been recalled.
Mentone Girls Grammar School said souvlaki and burgers sold at its canteen on Thursday used some of the potentially tainted lettuce.
Following a clean-up on Tuesday, the company has reassured the Victorian health body its lettuce products are safe.
“We’ve been reassured by the company that the product is safe, and we don’t have any evidence to suggest it’s not,” Dr Romanes said.
He also defended Victoria’s food safety measures.
“I’m confident that there are really good systems in place to prevent this occurring and to detect issues when they occur,” Dr Romanes said.
But completely ruling out the risk of salmonella when it comes to food is not realistic, he says.
“I think it would be wrong to say there will never ever be another outbreak of salmonella linked to a food in Victoria.
“That’s not a guarantee.”
RECALLED PRODUCTS (Use-by date up to and including 14 February)
* Coles Australian Baby Spinach 60g
* Coles Australian Baby Rocket 60g
* Coles Australian Baby Rocket 120g
* Coles Australian Spinach & Rocket 120g
* Coles Australian Baby Spinach 120g
* Coles Australian 4 Leaf Salad 120g
* Coles Australian 4 Leaf Salad 200g
* Wash N Toss Watercress 100g
* Wash N Toss Sorrel 50g
* Wash N Toss Baby Cos 100g
* Wash N Toss Baby Spinach 100g
* Wash N Toss Salad Mix 100g
* Wash N Toss Wild Rocket 100g
* Wash N Toss Kale 100g
* Woolworths Baby Spinach 100g
* Woolworths Baby Rocket 100g
* Woolworths Gourmet Mix 100g
* Woolworths Fresh Cut Loose Baby Spinach 1kg
* Woolworths Fresh Cut Salad Loose Mesclun 1kg
* Supa Salad Supa salad 180g
* Supa Salad Green Coral 180g
* Supa Salad Supamix 1kg
* Supa Salad Spinach 1kg
* Supa Salad Rocket 1kg
* Supa Salad Baby Cos 1kg
* Supa Salad ALH 1kg
* Supa Salad Spinach 180g
* Clear Film Blend
* Clear Film Spinach
* Clear Film Baby Cos