Did you know food poisoning is more common in summer than at any other time of the year? This is because bacteria grow faster in hot and humid weather. In the right conditions, bacteria can multiply quickly and contaminate food.
Unfortunately you won’t always know when food is contaminated – it will usually look, smell and taste normal, putting you and your family at risk of food poisoning.
A large number of Australians get food poisoning every year and some people are more at risk than others. Pregnant women, the elderly, young children and people with chronic illnesses at particularly at risk.
Take care when preparing, storing or serving food, especially during the warmer summer months.
Here are our top 10 tips to prevent food poisoning:
- Set your thermostat. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 5°C and keep your freezer at -15°C to -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.
- Get food home quickly. Take chilled, frozen or hot food straight home in insulated containers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Know when to throw food 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.
- 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.