20 December 2023

Be food safe this summer

With the festive season and warm summer temperatures upon us, Western Australians are being warned to take care when storing and preparing food.

WA Health’s Executive Director Environmental Health, Dr Michael Lindsay said the hot weather provided a favourable environment for bacterial contaminants in food to thrive and multiply.

“There were more than 6,000 reports of gastroenteritis cases this year in WA,” he said

“Nearly three-quarters of the cases were caused by the campylobacter bacteria.”

People infected with Campylobacter will commonly get diarrhoea, cramping, nausea, vomiting and fever which can last up to 10 days.

On average 10 per cent of cases are hospitalised and in rare cases, Campylobacter can also cause more serious long-term diseases.

Last year, foodborne campylobacteriosis is estimated to have cost the WA community around $45milllion.

Dr Lindsay warned people not to rely on smell alone to gauge the safety of food as food poisoning bacteria often won’t cause food to look, smell or taste spoiled.

He said there were simple steps to take to prevent food poisoning caused by campylobacter and other bacteria:

  • Cook foods especially chicken, eggs, and mince, all the way through to kill bacteria. If you are cooking chicken on the barbeque, cook it until the juices run clear. If you have a thermometer, check that the thickest part of the meat is at least 75⁰C. Always follow cooking instructions on packs.
  • Separate foods such as raw meat, cooked meat, eggs and fruit and vegetables to prevent cross-contamination in the fridge and when cooking. Use separate utensils and chopping boards. Never wash raw chicken as it spreads bacteria around your kitchen.
  • Clean utensils and benchtops with hot soapy water before and after use. Wash hands before and immediately after handling raw meat.
  • Chill perishable foods below 5̊C. Perishable foods left out of the fridge for more than four hours should be thrown out.

Dr Lindsay said anyone who thought they may have become ill from eating contaminated food should consult their doctor as soon as possible.

"Food poisoning symptoms can take days to develop, so putting together a list of food eaten in the 48 hours prior to onset of any gastro symptoms to provide to your doctor is a good idea,” he said.

“Anyone who has eaten at a restaurant in the 48 hours prior to becoming unwell should also notify the environmental health officer at their local government authority.”

Campylobacter can also be spread through contact with dogs, cats, chickens, and farm animals carrying the bacteria.

“You can prevent getting sick by practising good hand hygiene and avoid feeding raw chicken to your dogs,” he said.

For more tips on how to prevent foodborne illness this summer visit Healthy WA.



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WA Health Media

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E: media@health.wa.gov.au

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