March 23, 2019 08:49:24

Authorities may order the destruction of up to half a million chickens at a Victorian poultry farm, after the detection of a rare strain of salmonella at the property sparked a massive supermarket egg recall.

Key points:

  • Authorities may need to kill all chickens on the farm to contain the spread of salmonella
  • It could take the egg farm up to two years to recover if all chickens are culled
  • The affected farm represents about 15 per cent of Victoria’s egg industry

Eggs were recalled from supermarket shelves across Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT on Thursday after authorities linked five salmonella-related illnesses with the farm.

The egg recall prompted renewed warnings for consumers to be aware that raw eggs can contain salmonella, a bacteria which is killed when the egg is properly cooked.

Complete list of recalled eggs:

  • Woolworths 12 Cage Free Eggs 700g
  • Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 600g
  • Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 700g
  • Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 800g
  • Loddon Valley Barn Laid 600g
  • Affected eggs have best-before dates of March 20, March 23, March 27, March 30, April 3, April 6, April 10, April 14, April 17, April 20, April 24, April 27, April 29

Agriculture Victoria placed the farm where the potentially contaminated eggs were processed, Bridgewater Poultry in central Victoria, under strict quarantine measures to prevent the rare salmonella enteritidis strain from spreading.

In a statement, the company said it was working with authorities to determine whether the salmonella was introduced to the farm “through the purchase of interstate eggs”.

Egg prices could rise

The Victorian Farmers Federation’s eggs group president Brian Ahmed said if authorities believed the salmonella had spread throughout the farm, they would likely have to kill the roughly 500,000 birds at the property.

“I mean I know it sounds extreme, but they would have to cull all that farm just to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere else,” he said.

But he said the farm was “well organised” and salmonella had so far not been detected in every shed, meaning not all birds may need to be destroyed.

He said in the event that all chickens were culled, it could take the business up to two years to get back into operation, affecting the supply of eggs to the industry.

“No other farm would have the capacity to just automatically flick a switch and produce that amount of eggs overnight, so it would have quite a heavy impact on the supply not just here in Victoria, but around Australia,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said the farm represented roughly 15 per cent of the Victorian egg industry, and the contamination scare would likely cause egg prices to rise “a little” in the short term.