Tom Richardson and Jeremy Roberts of The Australian report that health authorities uncovered more evidence yesterday linking an outbreak of food poisoning to family-owned South Australian smallgoods manufacturer Conroy’s, warning that cases could still emerge months from now.
But the state’s Industry Minister, Rory McEwen, described the company as a “good corporate citizen” that had adhered to national food safety standards, suggesting those standards might need to be toughened.
An outbreak of listeria bacteria has been linked to two deaths and two serious illnesses in state hospitals since late October. While only a small proportion of people – including pregnant women and people with low immune systems – are susceptible to infection, health authorities warned listeriosis was a “serious disease”.
Rod Givney, director of the Health Department’s Communicable Disease Control Branch, said he expected “at least 30 per cent” of people who caught the disease to die.
Conroy’s has recalled all its products, except bacon, under several brands distributed throughout South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Tests on the company’s corned beef and ham steaks yesterday revealed traces of Listeria monocytogenes – the same listeria strain as that found in two of the victims, including one of the fatalities.
Both of those patients had been treated at Royal Adelaide Hospital. Traces of Listeria monocytogenes were also found in the hospital’s kitchen.
Traces of a different listeria strain were found in a patient from another hospital, while tests are still being conducted on blood samples from the second fatality, who died in Gawler Hospital.
Health Minister John Hill said further tests were needed to determine whether the listeria found in Conroy’s meat was “exactly the same molecular structure” as that found in the two RAH patients.
Dr Givney said that while two other hospitals, St Andrews and Gawler, had also been investigated, “the thing most of those hospitals have in common is products supplied by Conroy’s”.
Conroy products sold nationally under the brands Drake Food Markets and Foodland were included in the recall.