21 December 2016

Be food safe and stay well over the festive season

The Department of Health today urged Western Australians to take extra care when preparing and storing food during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Department of Health Food Unit Manager Stan Goodchild said that while holiday functions could make this an enjoyable time of year, good times could turn sour if food was not handled correctly in the warm weather.

"An estimated 4.1 million Australians get food poisoning each year, of which approximately one million see a doctor, 32,000 are hospitalised and more than 80 die,” Mr Goodchild said.

“In 2016 alone, approximately 700 people reported to Western Australian emergency departments with food poisoning.

“This is a particularly timely warning, as the rate of illnesses such as gastroenteritis often increases over summer because warmer temperatures permit more rapid bacterial growth in foods if they are left out of the fridge.”

Mr Goodchild said people could reduce their chances of getting a food-borne illness by taking simple measures when preparing and storing food.

Food safety tips include:

  • storing foods such as meat, dairy products and other perishable goods in the fridge until needed
  • ensuring leftovers are returned to the fridge as soon as possible and are not at room temperature for longer than two hours
  • covering food to prevent contamination by dust or insects
  • throwing out foods containing meat, dairy products or other perishable goods that have been left out of the fridge for more than four hours
  • thawing frozen food in the fridge or microwave and not on the kitchen bench
  • cooking all meats thoroughly, taking extra care with poultry and minced meat products
  • allowing freshly cooked meats to cool down to room temperature (no longer than two hours) before placing in the fridge
  • having an esky of ice or ice bricks to keep meats and other foods cold at barbecues and picnics
  • checking the use-by dates on food
  • washing hands with soap and warm water and drying hands thoroughly before handling food and immediately after handling raw meat
  • avoiding cross contamination by preparing and storing raw meats separately from cooked and ready-to-eat foods
  • ensuring utensils used on raw meats, such as tongs, chopping boards and knives, were washed before being used with ready-to-eat foods
  • as a guide, keep leftovers for no longer than three days, however this could be less depending on the type of food and the way it has been handled
  • when reheating, ensure that it is steaming hot
  • washing fruit and vegetables in clean running water before eating.

Mr Goodchild said people could not rely on smell to gauge the safety of a food as some food poisoning bacteria did not produce a bad odour or taste.

"Food poisoning symptoms can take days to develop," he said.

"Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating contaminated food and needs to seek medical care should consult their doctor as soon as possible. Putting together a list of food eaten in the previous 48 hours is also recommended.

"Anyone who has eaten at a restaurant should also notify their local government's environmental health officer and refrigerate any leftovers for possible examination."

Visit www.healthywa.wa.gov.au for more food safety tips.


Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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