Curry leaves cause salmonella

The most surprising foods can be involved in food poisoining.

More than 400 people were struck down with diarrhoea and vomiting, or salmonella poisoning, after a street food festival. A report leased in June by health officials concluded raw curry leaves were the source of the outbreak at the Street Spice Festival in Newcastle, which ran February 28 to March 2.

But Dinesh Rawlley, former executive chef and owner of Newcastle Indian restaurant Sachins, and top TV chef Cyrus Todiwala last night questioned the report.

Mr Rawlley said: “I find this very hard to believe. I’ve been cooking with Indian spices for more than 30 years and I’ve never once heard of curry leaves causing salmonella. In my view, it is impossible.

“The curry leaves used at the Street Spice Festival would have been imported from abroad and were almost certainly part of a large shipment. If they were contaminated, then surely there would have been similar incidences in other parts of the country.”

A report published by Public Health England (PHE) and Newcastle City Council, says contaminated leaves were in chutney.

TV chef Cyrus Todiwala, who owns London’s acclaimed Café Spice Namasté, said: “I’m not a scientist, but it’s my understanding that salmonella affects protein. How can it survive on a leaf?

“I often eat curry leaves raw . . . It’s far more likely the source of the salmonella was in something that was mixed with the curry leaves.”

Avi Malik, owner of Raval Indian restaurant in Gateshead also said there had to be another cause.

The investigators recommended advice be developed for industry and public on raw curry leaves. And Dr Kirsty Foster, chair of the outbreak control team and consultant in health protection with PHE, said advice meantime was to cook curry leaves thoroughly.