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11 December 2013

Take bacteria off the menu this summer

Barbecues, picnics and pool parties… summer means a lot of great food eaten al fresco, but it also means an increase in food-borne illness such as gastroenteritis.

WA Health Environmental Health Director Jim Dodds said the warmer weather and the tendency to leave food at room temperature longer during the festive season led to an increased risk of food-borne illness.

"People need to take extra care when preparing and storing food – not just over the holiday season - but throughout the summer," he said.

"Bacteria grow more quickly in foods left out of the fridge, and those bacteria can make you very ill."

Mr Dodds said people could reduce their chances of getting a food-borne illness by taking simple measures when preparing and storing food, such as:

  • storing foods such as meat, dairy products and other perishable goods in the fridge until needed
  • ensuring leftovers are not unrefrigerated for longer than two hours
  • covering food to prevent contamination by dust or insects
  • throwing out foods containing meat or dairy products that have been left out for more than four hours
  • cooking all meats thoroughly, taking extra care with chicken and minced meat products
  • having an esky of ice or ice bricks to keep meats and other foods cold at barbecues and picnics
  • checking the use-by dates on food
  • washing hands with soap and water before handling food
  • washing hands immediately after handling raw meat
  • avoiding cross contamination by preparing and storing raw meats separately from cooked and ready-to-eat foods
  • ensuring utensils used on raw meats, such as tongs, chopping boards and knives, were washed before being used with ready-to-eat foods
  • allowing leftovers to cool in the fridge soon after cooking
  • keeping leftovers no longer than three days
  • reheating leftovers to steaming hot temperature
  • washing fruit and vegetables in clean running water before eating.

Mr Dodds said people could not rely on smell to gauge the safety of a food because some food poisoning bacteria may not produce a bad odour or taste.

"Food poisoning symptoms can take days to develop," Mr Dodds said.

"Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating contaminated food and are unwell enough to seek medical care, should consult their doctor as soon as possible and make a list of food eaten in the previous 48 hours.

"If they have eaten at a restaurant they should also notify their local government's environmental health officer and refrigerate any leftovers for possible examination."

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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