Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) is a bacterial disease of poultry and can cause foodborne illness in humans such as gastroenteritis (commonly known as ‘gastro’) when contaminated food is consumed.
In poultry the disease often goes unnoticed but sometimes may present clinically in birds as depression, poor growth, weakness, diarrhoea and dehydration.
Possible sources of infection in commercial layer flocks include transmission from breeder birds (through the egg), contaminated environments, infected vermin (including rodents and insects), contaminated feed, contaminated eggs, packaging materials and contaminated vehicles, crates, people and their clothing.
Transmission to progeny from breeders is mainly through eggshell contamination, although transmission through the egg before the shell is formed may also occur.
Consumption of infected, uncooked or under cooked eggs can make people ill. Due to the high-risk of it causing foodborne illness in humans, SE is a notifiable animal disease in Australia. This means that there is a legal obligation to notify Agriculture Victoria if you know or suspect that poultry are infected with this disease.
Why is Salmonella Enteritidis important?
Salmonellosis is one of the most common and widely distributed food borne diseases. Salmonella outbreaks can have particularly severe consequences in highly vulnerable people, like those who are young, old and immunocompromised.
Until recently, the Australian egg industry was considered free of SE, which is a type of Salmonella that is present in most international egg industries. As of May 2018, SE has been detected in several NSW egg layer farms and two Victorian egg layer farm.
How can Salmonella Enteritidis spread?
Salmonella Enteritidis can be spread from property to property through the movement of produce including eggs, hens at the end of the production cycle, egg packaging materials, equipment, feed, rodents, people and vehicles.
Salmonellosis in people
For information on gastroenteritis caused by salmonellosis in people, please visit the Better Health Channel.
Advice for farmers and industry providers
How is Salmonella Enteritidis detected?
Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) can be identified in poultry flocks through:
- Investigation of health and disease issues of birds to determine the cause of the symptoms that may be associated with SE.
- Tracing back to farms or other businesses associated with an SE-affected farm or business.
- Tracing back to farms when there are cases of food-borne illness in humans.
- Routine Salmonella monitoring programs on poultry farms and facilities (e.g. grading floors).
How can I prevent the spread of Salmonella Enteritidis and protect my business?
Good farm biosecurity is critical to managing the risk of SE. You should have a documented biosecurity program to monitor for and prevent the introduction of SE to your property or the spread between poultry sheds.
Actions you can take include:
- Developing and implementing a farm specific, effective biosecurity plan. The farm biosecurity website provides a number of biosecurity resources.
- National Farm Biosecurity Manual Poultry Production
- National Farm Biosecurity Technical Manual for Egg Production
- Providing birds with drinking water derived from town water or water that has been effectively sanitised in line with the National Water Biosecurity Manual - Poultry Production.
- Buying pullets that are tested and confirmed to be SE-free.
- Buying feed from a mill that monitors for Salmonella.
- Participate in an appropriate industry Quality Assurance program.
- Having a documented ingredient and feed testing program for home diets, that is sighted during audits.
- Not allowing people returning from overseas and suffering from diarrhoea to work on the farm or handle birds.
- Storing eggs on-farm in a cool environment, promptly after laying, where the thermostat temperature is set at less than 15⁰C, but greater than 1°C.
- Implementing an effective auditable vermin control program and using rodenticides in compliance with Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) label instructions.
- Storing feed in areas not accessible to other animals (including vermin or wild birds).
- Ensuring workers, particularly in the egg collection processing area, are familiar with and follow personal hygiene measures to minimise the risk of transferring Salmonella from humans to poultry or eggs.
- Following recommended industry practices on the farm, particularly in the egg collection and grading area, in order to minimise risks associated with SE cross-contamination between equipment, eggs and humans.
- Preventing the entry of hen traders, their vehicles and crates into the farm production area.
- Cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment before use.
- Read our factsheets below.
What happens if Salmonella Enteritidis is detected on a poultry farm?
If a farm has a confirmed positive test for SE it will be placed under quarantine notice and movement restrictions will be applied by Agriculture Victoria to prevent the further spread of SE.
Tracing of facilities or other businesses with recent contact with this farm, e.g. through egg movements or hen movement will be undertaken and samples from those properties will be collected and investigated.
The disease will be managed on-farm by industry in accordance with the industry-owned National Salmonella Enteritidis Response Plan.
What happens to the eggs on a farm that is Salmonella Enteritidis?
Restrictions are placed on the movement and sale of eggs from the farm. Agriculture Victoria may issue a permit for the eggs to go to pulping and pasteurisation to render them safe. Any movement of eggs, birds, manure, etc is only allowed under a permit to an approved facility.
Is there regular monitoring for Salmonella Enteritidis in layer flocks?
There is a voluntary National Salmonella Enteritidis Monitoring & Accreditation Program (NSEMAP) available to all commercial egg producers in Australia.
- A summary of recommended biosecurity practices to protect your business from Salmonella Enteritidis (PDF - 158.7 KB)
- A summary of recommended biosecurity practices to protect your business from Salmonella Enteritidis (WORD - 168.3 KB)
Salmonella Risk Assessment Toolkit
Australian Eggs has developed a Salmonella Risk Assessment Toolkit.
Report Salmonella Enteritidis in poultry
Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in poultry is a notifiable disease under the Victorian Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. There is a legal obligation to notify Agriculture Victoria immediately if you know or suspect that birds are infected with this disease.
You can notify suspicion of SE by phoning:
- Agriculture Victoria’s Customer Call Centre on 136 186
- Your local District Veterinary Officer or Animal Health Officer
- The Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888