It’s summer time but before you fire up the BBQ or start setting up the buffet table take a moment to think about safety and avoid a nasty bout of food poisoning.
According to the Food Safety Information Council, each year there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia. Of those, around a third are thought to be caused by food handling mistakes in the home.
The average mid-week family meal can easily be the source of food poisoning but at Christmas the hot weather, overloaded fridge and extra mouths to feed can be a dangerous combination.
There’s plenty you can do to help reduce the risk.
- Before you shop, or even plan your menu, make sure there’s enough room in the fridge to keep cold food at 5 degrees Celsius or less. If you need extra room put drinks in an esky instead.
- Don’t let food sit on the bench or in shopping bags. Chill or freeze food as soon as you bring it home and don’t take it out before you’re ready to cook.
- Don’t overload your fridge; it can restrict the movement of the cooling air
- Avoid cross contamination. Keep raw meats and poultry on the bottom shelves in the fridge so juices don’t drip on anything underneath and keep raw and cooked foods separate during preparation.
- Bring a plate is a popular tradition but if your guests are travelling long distances food may sit out of the oven or fridge for longer than is safe. Grandma’s trifle might be a family favourite but on a hot December day, asking for cakes, biscuits, chips, breads and drinks instead would be a much better idea.
- Keep it clean. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling any food and immediately after handling any food especially raw meat or eggs. Regularly clean surfaces, utensils and cutting boards with soap and warm water and dry thoroughly.
- Don’t prepare food if you’re unwell
- Cook chicken, rolled and stuffed meats, sausages and minced meat all the way through
- Buffet style eating is great relaxed option but make sure your food isn’t sitting out for too long. The general rule of thumb for cooked foods is two hours, providing it’s not in the sun. Try serving perishables like cheeses and dips in smaller amounts and topping them up. After four or more hours out of the fridge it’s best to throw it out.
If you or anyone close to you experiences symptoms of food poisoning, which can include nausea, stomach cramps, fever and diarrhoea; see your doctor or visit your closest emergency department as soon as possible.