It’s Time To Take Food Safety Seriously

24.10.18 Eat, Learn Blog SumoSalad

With the warmer weather coming it’s a great time to get together with family and friends and entertain. But food poisoning cases also increase in the warmer months when we often prepare food for larger numbers of people putting a strain on our kitchen and fridge. We spoke to Rachelle Williams, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council to find out more about how to keep safe this summer.

When we have larger gatherings we may be preparing food for people who are at serious risk if they do get food poisoning. Pregnant women, small children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, such as immune problems and diabetes, can get seriously ill or even die if they get food poisoning. Rachelle has these simple food safety tips to ensure we protect our family and friends.

Keep it clean

One of the first things to do is always wash your hands before preparing food and then wash them again if you’ve been handling riskier foods likely to be contaminated such as raw meat, poultry, seafood or raw eggs and visibly dirty vegetables. Check you are doing it correctly as you need to wash hands under running water with soap for 20 seconds, rinse and then dry on a clean towel for 20 seconds.

Keep it separate

Make sure those riskier foods are kept separate from foods like salads and desserts that won’t be cooked again. Store meat, poultry and seafood covered in the bottom of the fridge where it can’t drip onto other foods. Use separate chopping boards from meat/poultry/fish and fruit and vegetables or cooked food. If you only have one chopping board wash it, your knife and hands after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood and their packaging and before handling other food. Clean up any spills from raw meats or seafood. Never put cooked meat, poultry or seafood back on the plate that raw meats and seafoods were on as it will be re-contaminated by the raw juices or liquids.

Love your fridge

Pick up a fridge thermometer from your local home ware store and use it to check your fridge is running at 5°C. If you are entertaining quite a few people you may need to make room in your fridge for riskier foods that should be kept cold like meat, poultry, seafood, egg dishes, cooked dishes and salads. Cooked rice and pasta, including in salads, should also be stored in the fridge as dangerous toxins can grow in them at room temperature that aren’t killed by further cooking. Take out any drinks and keep them on ice in a large plastic container, this will also stop people opening your fridge to get out drinks making it warmer. You can also take out for a short time some acidic items like pickles, jams and olives.

Defrost safely

Only defrost food in the fridge or microwave as bacteria can grow in it if it is left at room temperature or the food can be exposed to flies and other insects (or your pets!) Be aware that large pieces of meat or poultry may take up to 24 or more hours to defrost in the fridge. When defrosting in the microwave follow any prompts in instructions such as to stir a dish or leave to stand.

Use a meat thermometer

Food Safety Information Council research shows that home cooks are much more aware of safe cooking temperatures if they own a meat thermometer. Rates of Salmonella and Campylobacter food poisoning are a top concerning Australia and that is linked to undercooked risky foods like poultry, sausages, hamburgers and egg dishes. Always cook chicken, rolled and stuffed meats, tenderized, marinated and moisture enhanced meats, sausages and minced meat, such as hamburger patties and sausages, so that in the centre of the thickest part the temperature reaches 75°C. Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiche, should be cooked until 72 °C in the centre (or until the white is firm and the yolk thickens).


Divide any leftovers into small containers and store in the fridge. Don’t leave food out for more than 2 hours if you want to keep as leftovers. Use or freeze any refrigerated leftovers within 2 to 3 days. Reheat to 75°C checking the temperature with a meat thermometer.

Family and friends with special needs

Pregnant women, small children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes or with suppressed immune systems are at risk of Listeria infection. Listeria bacteria are commonly found in the environment and soil and infections can be very dangerous for these vulnerable groups and can even be fatal. If anyone you are preparing food for is in this group they will need to avoid or cook certain foods such as soft cheeses, paté sliced, deli meats and pre-prepared salads and pre-cut fruit and veg (see the full list here). They shouldn’t eat leftovers that have been stored in the fridge for more than 24 hours.


The theme for Australian Food Safety Week, to be held 10 to 17 November 2018, will be ‘Food Poisoning – take it seriously!’ During the 2018 Australian Food Safety Week the Food Safety Information Council particularly want to help those who are at greater risk if they do get food poisoning such as pregnant women, the elderly and people with poor immune systems. Find out more here foodsafety.asn.au 


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