Betta Maid bakery says it has shut up shop for good despite being given the go-ahead on Thursday to reopen after a four-week closure which followed a deadly salmonella outbreak at aged care facilities in the region.
The NSW Food Authority granted the Unanderra business clearance to reopen on Thursday morning, but later that day Betta Maid food safety officer Anthony Peart announced it had already closed.
"We have no alternative than to close the doors of the bakery," he said. "This occurred three weeks ago with the loss of 15 jobs in a business that has been in the Illawarra for over 50 years."
The bakery was ordered to shut down temporarily by the Food Authority on March 5 after traces of salmonella were found on a food contact surface. One environmental sample taken by the authority from the bakery, as well as an apple strudel and chocolate slice produced by the bakery, had previously tested positive for salmonella bovismorbificans.
That same rare strain was found in 32 infected residents at 10 aged-care facilities operated or supplied by IRT across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.
Two of the residents died.
On Thursday, the Food Authority issued the business with a clearance certificate, lifting the prohibition order and permitting it to resume trading.
"This certificate was granted after swabs taken and tested by the NSW Food Authority showed there was no further trace of salmonella and that the bakery had reviewed their cleaning and sanitation procedures to the satisfaction of the food authority," an authority spokeswoman said.
The Food Authority only issues a certificate of clearance after a request for inspection has been made by the business. According to the Food Authority's compliance and enforcement policy: "An inspection is to take place within 48 hours of receiving a written request for inspection from the proprietor of a food business".
The spokeswoman did not comment on statements the business had closed down for good, stating the authority would continue to monitor the bakery to "ensure its compliance with the requirements are met". "This will involve the continued inspection of premises and monitoring to ensure cleaning and sanitation procedures are being followed," she added.
The spokeswoman said the NSW Food Authority would continue to undertake investigations into the business' involvement in the salmonella outbreak.
"The NSW Food Authority will continue to conduct its investigation into whether there may be a case to pursue in relation to taking enforcement action against the company," she said.
NSW Health last week closed its investigation into the outbreak. Illawarra Shoalhaven Public Health director Curtis Gregory said that since February 23, no additional residents had become unwell with salmonellosis.
"We've deemed the outbreak is now over as more than four weeks has elapsed since the last confirmed case. This means any incubation period for additional cases has now passed." Mr Gregory said NSW Health would liaise with the Food Authority and aged care facilities during the transition back to normal operations.