Dear Lifehacker, On the weekend it was reported that scores of people contracted food poisoning from a South Sydney bakery. (Story here.) The culprit is believed to have been a Vietnamese-style pork and chicken roll. This isn't the first time these products have caused a health scare: something similar happened in my home town last year. Are all these outbreaks a coincidence, or do I need to start looking for a new healthy lunch option? Thanks, Bánh Mì Fan
For those who are unfamiliar with the snack, Vietnamese pork rolls, or "Bánh Mì", are crusty bread rolls filled with cured meats and salads (usually shredded carrot, lettuce, cucumber, spring onions, coriander and chopped chillies.) They also come with pate, soy dressing and an egg-based mayonnaise — which is where most of the danger lies.
While there is an inherent risk in eating any handmade food, Vietnamese pork rolls seem to be particularly troublesome to consumers. One of the most infamous examples occurred in 2003, when more than 200 people fell ill with gastroenteritis after eating pork rolls from a Footscray eatery. One of the victims died as a result and the restaurant was forced to pay out $1 million in compensation.
Over the past few years, there have been salmonella and listeria outbreaks relating to pork rolls at Café Azzuri in Wentworth, Sydney, Springvale Cake and Bakery in Springvale, Victoria, an unnamed bakery in North Sydney and French Golden Hot Bread in Homebush, Sydney — to name just a few of the cases reported in the media.
In 2013, the NSW Food Authority conducted an investigation into multiple bakery's egg practices with an emphasis on Asian-style pork rolls. So it's safe to say that these snacks aren't the safest fast food going. But why is this, exactly?
The reasons are pretty obvious when you think about it. Vietnamese pork rolls contain raw egg and uncooked meat. They are also prepared by hand. To top it off, they are typically found in small, independent eateries where cleaning practices might not be strictly adhered to. This all has the potential to create a perfect diarrhea storm. In short, there's a lot that can go wrong.
With all that said, the chances of getting sick are statistically very low when you consider how many of these things are sold on a daily basis. If you're paranoid about it, tell them to hold the mayo, ensure the food handler is wearing gloves and stick to popular stores with good reputations.
It's also worth noting that Vietnamese pork rolls aren't actually that healthy for you. If you're eating them specifically to lose weight we advise looking for a different salmonella-free snack.
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