Health
textual image stating 'Department of Health, Victoria, Australia'

Food safety at home

Page content: Enjoy your food but don't let it turn nasty | Food poisoning | High-risk food | Ready-to-eat foods | Ten easy steps to safe food | Keep your food in the 'right' zone | Choose carefully when buying food | Get food home quickly | Take extra care when taking food outside the home | Store food well | Wash hands when preparing food | Keep things clean and separate | Use the fridge to thaw frozen food | Cook it right | Cooling and reheating food | Contact

Enjoy your food but don't let it turn nasty

There are a few simple ways you can help ensure the food you buy and take home for yourself, your family or friends remains safe.

Victorian and Australian food safety laws are designed to ensure that the food you buy is safe. All Victorian food businesses such as supermarkets, delis, butchers, fishmongers, take-away shops and restaurants have to comply with these laws and standards by selling food that is safe to eat and free of any contamination. Food businesses have a responsibility to sell food that is safe to eat. Enjoy your food, but remember, once you leave the shop and get it home it’s up to you to ensure it does not turn nasty.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is most often caused by bacteria from food that has been poorly handled, stored or cooked. The food may actually look, taste and smell normal but still be no good.

Some people are more at risk from food poisoning than others, especially young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people suffering illnesses which compromise their immune systems.

The symptoms of food poisoning may vary depending on the type of bacteria or contaminants causing the illness. You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Symptoms can occur within 30 minutes after eating, or a number of hours later. They can be mild or severe. Some bacteria can also cause other symptoms and problems. Listeria bacteria may cause miscarriage or other serious illness in susceptible people.

If you have purchased food you think may be unsafe to eat, here's the best way to handle it.

Where to get help

Food poisoning and how to prevent it - pamphlet December 2010 (111kb, pdf)

More information on food poisoning can be accessed on the Better Health Channel website.

Note: If you or your child have eaten anything poisonous other than food contact the POISONS INFORMATION CENTRE immediately on 13 1126 (Australia wide free call) or seek medical advice.

High-risk food

Food poisoning bacteria can be naturally present in food, and in the right conditions it can take just seven hours for a single bacterium can grow into more than two million bacteria.

Bacteria grow and multiply on some types of food more easily than on others. The types of foods which bacteria prefer include:

Ready-to-eat foods

Ready-to-eat foods are foods that can be eaten without further preparation or cooking, such as take-away meals and pre-prepared salads and sandwiches.

Ten easy steps to safe food…

  1. Buy from reputable suppliers with clean premises.
  2. Avoid spoiled foods, foods past their use-by dates or foods in damaged containers or packaging.
  3. Take chilled, frozen, or hot foods straight home in insulated containers.
  4. Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate.
  5. Avoid high-risk foods left in the Temperature Danger Zone for more than 4 hours.
  6. Keep high-risk foods out of the Temperature Danger Zone. Keep chilled foods cold at 5°C or colder and hot food hot at 60°C or hotter.
  7. Thoroughly wash and dry hands when preparing food.
  8. Use separate and clean utensils for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  9. Cook minced meats, poultry, fish and sausages thoroughly.
  10. When in doubt, throw it out.

Keep your food in the 'right' zone!

A basic rule-of-thumb is to keep ‘high-risk’ foods in the right temperature zone for as long as possible.

Displays temperature danger zone for hot, cold and frozen foods

Avoid leaving high-risk foods in the Temperature Danger Zone.

When shopping:

When storing and transporting food:

Choose carefully when buying food & handle with care

Even if food producers and sellers have followed the food safety laws, the quality and safety of the food can be affected by the way you handle it. Once you purchase food, the safety of that food also becomes your responsibility.

If you have serious concerns with the way food is handled, stored or prepared by a business, contact your local council health department.

Get food home quickly

Take extra care when taking food outside the home

Enjoy picnics, eating outdoors, and taking food to work or school. Take extra care when preparing, storing and handling food.

Store food well

Keep food out of harm’s way by:

Wash hands when preparing food

Keep things clean and separate

Prevent quality food from turning nasty by keeping foods and equipment clean and separate.

Use the fridge to thaw frozen food

Bacteria can grow in frozen food while it is thawing, so keep frozen food out of the Temperature Danger Zone.

Cook it right

One of the most important things you can do to stop food turning nasty is to cook it thoroughly, especially high-risk food.

Cooling & reheating food

Download document

The PDF below is a printable version of the above information:

  Your Guide to Food Safety February 2011

The guide to food safety factsheet is also available in the following languages:

Albanian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (108kb, pdf) Albanian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Arabic - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (129kb, pdf) Arabic - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Assyrian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (241kb, pdf) Assyrian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Cambodian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (122kb, pdf) Cambodian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Chinese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (650kb, pdf) Chinese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Croatian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (56kb, pdf) Croatian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Farsi - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (184kb, pdf) Farsi - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Greek - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (64kb, pdf) Greek - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Hungarian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (54kb, pdf) Hungarian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Indonesian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (51kb,pdf) Indonesian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Italian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (59kb, pdf) Italian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Japanese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (436kb, pdf) Japanese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Macedonian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (83kb, pdf) Macedonian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Maltese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (52kb, pdf) Maltese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Polish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (108kb, pdf) Polish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Portuguese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (105kb, pdf) Portuguese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Russian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (101kb, pdf) Russian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Serbian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (80kb, pdf) Serbian - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Sinhalese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (187kb, pdf) Sinhalese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Somali - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (55kb, pdf) Somali - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Spanish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (56kb, pdf) Spanish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Turkish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (58kb, pdf) Turkish - Your guide to food safety, April 2005
   
Vietnamese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005 (76kb, pdf) Vietnamese - Your guide to food safety, April 2005

Contact

For more information on food safety contact: