Department of Health

Salmonella most unpopular gift this festive season

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Hot summer months call for lazy picnics in parks, BBQs by the beach and huge family feasts, but the festive season also brings a greater risk of food poisoning.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer Professor Michael Ackland today issued a timely holiday season food safety warning.

All Victorians are urged to use good food handling and personal hygiene practices inside and out of the home when preparing meals this holiday season to prevent food turning nasty.

Salmonellosis and Campylobacter infection (types of food-borne illness) are more commonly notified to the Department of Health and Human Services in the warmer months of the year.

In the six month period from October 2014 to March 2015 the number of cases of salmonellosis notified to the Department was 24 per cent higher than in the period from April to September 2014.

Professor Ackland said bacteria in food multiply faster in hot, humid weather. Most home kitchens aren’t designed for the safe handling of large quantities of food.

"Preparing and eating food outdoors in the garden, when camping or at picnics and barbecues can bring added risks, as refrigeration and places to wash hands are not readily available and food can be exposed to contamination from insects, pests, animals and dust," Professor Ackland said.

"Preventing food poisoning can be as simple as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

"Other easy ways to prevent food poisoning include making sure food is stored at the correct temperatures, cooking food properly to kill bacteria, and, if in doubt throw it out.

"Food poisoning can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and may be quite serious for children, older people and people with conditions that weaken their immune systems.

"If you have symptoms of food poisoning it is important to stay at home while you recover and avoid Christmas and New Year’s parties – and never prepare food for others when sick."

Professor Ackland said with the rise in temperature, and pressure on fridge space with big parties, it’s all too easy to forget about safe food practices.

"I urge everyone to think about food safety this Christmas and New Year’s and wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food for the family," Professor Ackland said.

"We want all Victorians to enjoy a safe and healthy festive season and by following some simple tips you can ensure you don’t give the gift of salmonella this year."

More information is available on the Better Health Channel.

10 tips for summer food safety

  1. Set your thermostat. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 5 °C and keep your freezer at minus 15 °C to minus 18 °C. Stock your cooler well with ice packs or clean ice. Keep salads fresh and meat safe in the cooler or fridge at 5 °C or less until cooking or serving.
  2. Get food home quickly. Take chilled, frozen or hot food straight home in insulated containers.
  3. Keep hot food hot. If you don't want to cool food straight away, keep hot food at 60 °C or hotter. Reheat foods thoroughly so they're steaming (above 75 °C) or boiling.
  4. Don't leave hot foods to completely cool before refrigerating. Put hot food in the fridge or freezer as soon as the steam stops rising. Cool it rapidly first by dipping the container in ice or a cold-water bath. Divide food into smaller, shallower containers so it cools more quickly in the fridge.
  5. Keep raw meat, chicken and seafood chilled and away from cooked food. When bacteria from raw meat gets onto cooked food, this can cause food poisoning. Keep raw meat below other foods in the fridge and don't let raw meat juices drip onto other food. Use different chopping boards for raw and cooked food, or wash them between uses. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
  6. Thaw frozen food thoroughly. Unless food is manufactured to be cooked from frozen (check pack instructions), make sure it's thawed right through before cooking.
  7. Don't overfill your fridge. Having enough room for air circulation inside the fridge is important for effective cooling. A good tip if you're catering for a crowd is to keep drinks on ice or in an insulated cooler and reserve the space in your fridge for food.
  8. Store leftovers safely. Store any leftovers in the fridge and eat within three to five days. If you don't plan to eat them within this time, freeze them straight away.
  9. Know when to throw away. Don't eat food that's been left out of the fridge for more than four hours -- especially poultry, meat, seafood, cooked rice and cooked pasta.
  10. Avoid handling food when you're not feeling well. If you have diarrhoea, vomiting, sore throat with fever, fever or jaundice, or infectious skin conditions, avoid handling food and see a doctor if symptoms persist.

Reviewed 22 December 2015


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Tim Vainoras Media Advisor

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