In the last week of January during university holidays, professors, employees, and students have reportedly gotten stomach sicknesses after consuming meals from the same food outlet on campus.
The food outlet in question has now been reported to authorities. The Sydney Local Health District (LHD) and NSW Food Authority are currently investigating the “likely cause” of 12 confirmed cases and six suspected cases of Salmonella infection, according to a Sydney LHD spokesperson.
USU CEO, Andrew Woodward, informed Honi Soit that the investigation has found Salmonella bacteria in one of the ingredients used in food preparation at the store. “However, we are awaiting confirmation that the strain of salmonella found in the cases matches the salmonella found in the [ingredient name omitted] served by [shop name omitted].”
Salmonellosis is a form of gastroenteritis caused when Salmonella bacteria are ingested. Symptoms include diarrhoea (which may contain blood or mucous), fever, headache, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and dehydration.
Alex Mouzone, third-year, mature age, B. PESS student, spent almost a week in hospital suffering from salmonellosis. Mouzone believes his illness was caused by his lunch from the Wentworth-Jane Foss Russell area on Friday, 24 January. The next week, the outlet stopped selling the item Mouzone bought in response to requests from the USU.
After lunch, Mouzone returned to work. He had salad, a cheese wrap and chips for dinner before heading to Newtown to watch the Federer versus Nadal Australian Open semi-final. Around 8pm, he was drinking his second beer when he started to feel a stomach ache. Symptoms of salmonellosis usually occur six to 72 hours after ingesting the bacteria.
Mouzone went home, where he experienced “the worst stomach cramps I’ve ever had”. “Basically, when that match was going on, I was just getting progressively sicker”, he said.
Mouzone spent Friday night at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. On Saturday, he stayed home and saw a home-visit doctor. “I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink”, he said.
From Sunday to Thursday, Mouzone was admitted into Concord Hospital where they discovered he had salmonella infection. They put him in an isolated room to contain the infection and fed him fluids through an IV drip.
The accused shop has been a USU tenant (distinct from a USU outlet) for 20 years. When assessing a store’s suitability for tenancy, an external, professional leasing agency looks at food safety history, business practice and customer service. “Based on the check, their 20 year association with the USU and their popularity with the campus community, [shop name omitted] was assessed as an appropriate tenant at each opportunity, i.e. at lease origination and lease renewal,” said Woodward.
“To our best knowledge this is the first time there has been a complaint made against [the shop].”
All tenants serving food are also subject to regular inspections by the NSW Food Authority.
If the store is found guilty in the current investigation, the Authority may choose from a range of enforcement policies to use against the offender such as verbal and written warnings, correction action requests, penalties, prosecution, publication of names and if serious, action against Food Authority licenses.
As the investigation is ongoing, the food outlet’s owner has declined to comment.
* The Sydney Local Health District spoke to Honi Soit on the condition that the food outlet remains unnamed until the allegations are confirmed.