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Methaemoglobinaemia associated with the atypical use of sodium nitrite as a food additive

Caitlin O’Neill, Zeina Najjar, Andrew Ingleton, Alan Edwards, Andrew Dawson and Leena Gupta
Med J Aust 2021; 215 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51233
Published online: 20 September 2021

On 13 November 2019, a public health unit in Sydney, Australia was notified of two unrelated patients who presented on the previous day to different emergency departments (EDs) with methaemoglobinaemia.1 Both had sudden symptom onset after dining at the same restaurant, raising suspicion that these presentations were linked to contaminated food, and prompting investigation. Foodborne illness in two or more related cases is notifiable under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).2

  • Caitlin O’Neill1
  • Zeina Najjar1
  • Andrew Ingleton1
  • Alan Edwards2
  • Andrew Dawson3
  • Leena Gupta1,4

  • 1 Public Health Unit, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Biosecurity and Food Safety, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 NSW Poisons Information Centre, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW



Acknowledgements: 

We thank Keira Glasgow, Manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases with the Enterics, Zoonoses and Multi‐Resistant Organisms Branch at NSW Health, for her input during the investigation.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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