The latest salmonella outbreak has prompted the Australian government to declare a national emergency and introduce mandatory disinfection at hospitals.
The government said that, in addition to the salmonellosis outbreaks in the state and neighbouring Queensland, the state has also reported five outbreaks of food poisoning involving fresh food.
“We have identified more than 100 cases of foodborne illness, with most of them occurring in the last few days,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
“There is a clear link between foodborne disease and the consumption of salt,” she said.
The outbreak was traced to the sale of salt lick products in Queensland.
The products, marketed under the name “amphet salt”, contain sodium chloride, a chemical used to make salt.
“While the product used in the salt licking is harmless, the use of salt licks can contain chemicals that are known to cause food poisoning,” Hennessys said.
“The NSW Health Department has also identified a significant number of cases of non-foodborne illness related to salt lick products in NSW.”
The NSW Department of Health said it is taking steps to address the safety of salt products, including: banning the sale and supply of salt-licking products in the community; requiring retailers to keep food safety records; and tightening regulations on salt licking in retail outlets.
“Salt licks have a long history of safety and environmental concerns,” a statement from the department said.
It said the department has also launched a public awareness campaign.
“The department’s response to salt lick outbreaks is the same as the department’s on food safety and food safety testing.
The department will continue to monitor and alert customers of the risk of food borne illness linked to salt licking,” the statement said.
On Monday, a NSW-based manufacturer, Oceana, recalled the “Salt” brand of salt lamp after it was linked to five foodborne illnesses in the New South Wales town of Redcliffe.
The company said that it was aware of at least five cases of illness linked with the products.
“This has been an ongoing problem in New South Welsh communities,” it said in a statement.
“We are working closely with the health department and NSW Health to make sure the products are properly disposed of.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it had received reports of people who purchased the salt lamps and found them to be “unclean”.
“The safety of the products, however, remains a concern,” the ACCC said in its latest quarterly report.
“As the ACCCs investigations continue, we are monitoring the situation closely and working closely to ensure that customers receive a prompt refund.”
Oceana said it was working with the state health department to improve the hygiene and handling of the salt lollies.
“It is important to note that Ocean products are designed to be washed thoroughly with water, as this prevents the spread of salmoneca,” the company said.