Epidemiology and Infection

Sesame seed products contaminated with Salmonella: three outbreaks associated with tahini

L. E. UNICOMB a1, G. SIMMONS a2, T. MERRITT a1c1, J. GREGORY a3, C. NICOL a4, P. JELFS a5, M. KIRK a6, A. TAN a7, R. THOMSON a8, J. ADAMOPOULOS a9, C. L. LITTLE a10, A. CURRIE a11 and C. B. DALTON a1
a1 OzFoodNet, Hunter Population Health, Wallsend, New South Wales (NSW), Australia
a2 Auckland Regional Public Health Service, Auckland, New Zealand
a3 Victorian Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
a4 Enteric Reference Laboratory, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR) Kenepuru Science Centre Porirua, New Zealand
a5 Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Westmead, NSW, Australia
a6 OzFoodNet, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, Australia
a7 Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
a8 New South Wales Food Authority, Silverwater, NSW, Australia
a9 OzFoodNet, Victorian Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
a10 Health Protection Agency Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London, UK
a11 Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division, Health Canada, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Article author query
unicomb le   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
simmons g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
merritt t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gregory j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
nicol c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jelfs p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kirk m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
tan a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
thomson r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
adamopoulos j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
little cl   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
currie a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
dalton cb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


In November 2002, the first of three outbreaks of Salmonella Montevideo infection in Australia and New Zealand was identified in New South Wales, Australia. Affected persons were interviewed, and epidemiologically linked retail outlets inspected. Imported tahini was rapidly identified as the source of infection. The contaminated tahini was recalled and international alerts posted. A second outbreak was identified in Australia in June–July 2003 and another in New Zealand in August 2003. In a total of 68 S. Montevideo infections, 66 cases were contacted. Fifty-four (82%) reported consumption of sesame seed-based foods. Laboratory analyses demonstrated closely related PFGE patterns in the S. Montevideo isolates from human cases and sesame-based foods imported from two countries. On the basis of our investigations sesame-based products were sampled in other jurisdictions and three products in Canada and one in the United Kingdom were positive for Salmonella spp., demonstrating the value of international alerts when food products have a wide distribution and a long shelf life. A review of the controls for Salmonella spp. during the production of sesame-based products is recommended.

(Published Online May 26 2005)
(Accepted February 9 2004)

c1 Hunter Population Health, Locked Mailbag 10, Wallsend, NSW 2287, Australia. (Email: tony.merritt@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au)