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16 December 2014

Be food safe and stay well this Christmas

The Christmas season is a time when family, friends or work colleagues gather to share a meal and good times. WA Health is urging Western Australians to take extra care when preparing and storing food during this time.

Acting Director Environmental Health, Michael Lindsay, said that due to the big number of Christmas functions and the warmer weather there is increased likelihood that outbreaks or other food safety incidents could occur if food is not handled correctly.

"The rate of illnesses such as gastroenteritis often increases over summer because warmer temperatures permit more rapid bacterial growth in foods if they are left out of the fridge," Dr Lindsay said.

"People can reduce their chances of getting a food-borne illness by taking simple measures when preparing and storing food."

Food safety tips include:

  • storing foods such as meat, dairy products and other perishable goods in the fridge until needed
  • ensuring leftovers are returned to the fridge as soon as possible and are not at room temperature for longer than two hours
  • covering food to prevent contamination by dust or insects
  • throwing out foods containing meat, dairy products or other perishable goods that have been left out for more than four hours
  • cooking all meats thoroughly, taking extra care with poultry and minced meat products
  • allowing freshly cooked meats to cool down to room temperature (no longer than 2 hours) before placing in the fridge
  • 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 warm water and drying hands thoroughly before handling food and 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
  • as a guide, keep leftovers for no longer than three days, however this could be less depending on the type of food and the way it has been handled
  • when reheating, ensure that it is steaming hot
  • washing fruit and vegetables in clean running water before eating.

Dr Lindsay said people could not rely on smell to gauge the safety of a food as some food poisoning bacteria do not produce a bad odour or taste.

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

"Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating contaminated food and needs to seek medical care should consult their doctor as soon as possible. Putting together a list of food eaten in the previous 48 hours is also recommended.

"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
Follow us on Twitter: @WAHealth

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