The smoked salmon which has caused two deaths has come from Tasmania. Picture: Jenifer Jagielski.
The smoked salmon which has caused two deaths has come from Tasmania. Picture: Jenifer Jagielski.

Two die after eating smoked salmon

Two people have died and a third is ill after contracting the bacterial infection Listeria from eating smoked salmon.

One person each from Victoria and NSW have died and a third from Queensland, all aged over 70, were infected from smoked salmon originating from Tasmania.

Listeria infection starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea.

People can start experiencing symptoms within a few days, but symptoms can also take a number of weeks to appear after eating a contaminated product.

The Federal Health Department, which is investigating the three cases, warned other foods with a higher risk of Listeria contamination include raw oysters, sushi and cooked prawns.

Smoked salmon has proved to be the source of two deaths from Listeria.
Smoked salmon has proved to be the source of two deaths from Listeria.

The list also includes cold deli meats, cold cooked chicken, rockmelon, pate, soft cheeses and pre-packaged salads.

The Health Department said in a statement the two people who died and the third infected person all had "serious underlying health problems".

Pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems can be at increased risk.

Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett confirmed Tasmanian salmon products were the source of the outbreak, the Hobart Mercury reported.

"I won't go into those details," he said.

"There has been no breach of the law in terms of food safety in the production of salmon in Tasmania and to say that food safety is a top priority for our government."

Listeriosis is an illness caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

The bacteria are widely distributed in the environment and can grow in food at refrigeration temperatures.

Most people who are exposed to Listeria will only develop mild symptoms, though illness can be severe in those most at-risk.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Listeria bacteria (above) can infect raw oysters, cold meats, per-packaged salads and rockmelon.
Listeria bacteria (above) can infect raw oysters, cold meats, per-packaged salads and rockmelon.