Food Safety Information Council of Australia estimates that there are up to 4.1 million cases of food-borne illness each year in Australia. Every year, on average, this results in:
- 31,920 hospitalisations
- 86 deaths
- 1 million visits to doctors
As well as the health problems caused by food-borne illness, the economic costs cannot be underestimated when you consider how many days people need to take off work through illness, visits to the doctor and hospitalisation.
The Department of Health defines food poisoning as any illness caused by eating food or drink that is contaminated with certain types of bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins. Symptoms can vary from mild to sever. Some people are more at risk of getting food poisoning that others, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with weakend immune systems.
Food safety is everyone’s responsibility
Whether food is eaten at home, bought as a takeaway or enjoyed in a restaurant, it is important that the food you eat is safe to consume.
In WA, food safety is regulated from the point of production to the point of sale by the (WA) Food Act and Food Regulations
, and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code
. These regulations do not apply once the food has been taken home – so you have an important role to play in keeping you and your family safe.
Food safety at home
Here are some tips to help you transport, store and prepare your food safely at home and when you are out and about.
Transport food safely
Certain foods can become hazardous very quickly once the temperature rises above fridge temperatures (5°C). In some cases, you might not know the food has become potentially dangerous.
Use an esky or cooler bag with ice or ice bricks to get potentially hazardous foods such as meat, chicken, seafood, milk and cheese home from the shop safely.
If you are packing food for a picnic, BBQ or packed lunches, use a cooler bag with ice blocks to keep the food cool.
Store your food safely
Food poisoning bacteria grows quickly when food is stored in the temperature danger zone, which is any temperature between 5°C and 60°C. To keep food safe, minimise the time food is stored in the temperature danger zone.
Your fridge should be operating at or below 5°C. Use a fridge thermometer not linked to your fridge to check and monitor this.
When you are storing food in your fridge, make sure there is enough space between items in your fridge to allow the cold air to circulate. It is important to separate raw and cooked items. Use separate containers and position raw foods such as meat, poultry or seafood below cooked foods, so raw foods cannot drip dangerous bacteria onto your cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
Do not store food for too long, even in the refrigerator. If in doubt – throw it out.
Safe food preparation
To prepare and serve your food safely:
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after using the toilet, before preparing food and between handling raw and cooked foods;
- Use separate utensils and equipment for the preparation and storage of raw and cooked foods;
- Keep your food preparation areas and equipment clean using hot soapy water and food-grade sanitisers;
- Wash fruit and vegetables before use especially if you plan to eat these raw;
- Cook food thoroughly to above 60°C.
- Poultry should be cooked to above 75°C, making sure juices are clear, not pink;
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours;
- Reheat cooked food until steaming.
For more tips, visit the Food Safety Information Council of Australia website.
Food safety practices for eggs
While eggs can be a nutritious food, it is important to handle and prepare eggs safely as they can be a source of food poisoning. The WA Department of Health recommendations suggest that you:
- Check eggs before you buy them to make sure they are undamaged, clean and within date;
- Take care not to splash raw egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes, and always wash your hands after touching eggs;
- Avoid serving raw or lightly cooked eggs to young children, elderly people and pregnant women;
- Cook eggs until both the white and yolk are solid.
For more information on eggs, visit the Department of Health website
Tips for businesses
If you work with food, it is important to follow the tips above and be properly trained in food safety.
Learn about food safety training for businesses
More helpful information
To find out more visit the following links.