10 November 2016

How to avoid food poisoning

Western Australians are being reminded to prepare their food safely, to avoid becoming one of the estimated 4.1 million people who get food poisoning each year in Australia.

Department of Health Food Unit Acting Manager Sophe Williamson said raw and risky foods were the focus of this year’s Australian Food Safety Week (6-12 November).

“In recent years major food poisoning outbreaks have been linked to risky raw foods such as unpasteurized milk, raw eggs, bean/seed sprouts, frozen berries and lettuce,” she said.

“Each year an estimated one million Australians have to visit a doctor due to food poisoning, 32,000 end up in hospital and more than 80 die.”

Raw foods can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses in many ways including from:

  • food handlers’ unwashed hands
  • the soil, compost or dirty irrigation water used to grow the food
  • food-producing animals
  • dirty kitchen equipment
  • contact with other contaminated food.

Cooking usually kills any bacteria or viruses so raw foods pose a greater food poisoning risk.

Ms Williamson said people could reduce raw food risks by following these simple tips:

  • DON’T use cracked eggs in raw egg dishes such as egg nog, uncooked desserts such as mousses and tiramisu, hollandaise sauces, fresh mayonnaise, aioli, health shakes with added raw egg or steak tartar. Discard the cracked eggs or save them for cakes or other cooked dishes. Prepare raw egg dishes as close as possible to the time of consuming and refrigerate at or below 5°C.
  • DON’T wash eggs from your backyard chooks because it spreads bacteria around your kitchen. Use a paper towel or brush to remove as much visible dirt as possible and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Remember it is best not to use them in raw egg dishes.
  • DON’T eat undercooked dishes including minced meat, such as in hamburgers and sausages, liver (including liver paté), stuffed or rolled roasts or poultry. Ensure these foods are cooked all the way through to 75°C to kill any bacteria inside.
  • DON’T drink unpasteurised milk because it will be contaminated with bacteria (and raw cow’s milk is illegal to sell). If you have your own goat or cow you can pasteurize your own milk by heating it to 75 °C in a double boiler for 2 minutes,  stirring continuously, then cool and refrigerate in a clean container.
  • DON’T let juices from raw meat or poultry contaminate other foods that won’t be cooked such as salads or desserts. Use separate chopping boards for raw meat and salad veggies, cover raw meat and poultry in the fridge.

Ms Williamson also reminded Western Australians to eat lots of raw fruit and vegetables to ensure they were consuming the recommended five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit per day.

“However it is important to ensure that raw fruit and vegetables are also clean before they are eaten, because their skin can contain traces of bacteria,” she said.

“Wash your fruit and vegetables under running water and dry with a paper towel just before eating – even if you are going to peel it so you don’t transfer bacteria to the inside of the food. You may need to scrub dirtier root veggies. There is no need to wash bagged fresh salads or cut vegetables if the label says it has been pre-washed but make sure you use them by the use by date.”

It is also important that pregnant women, the elderly and people with poor immune systems – who are at increased risk of Listeria – avoid eating raw foods such as eggs, unpasteurised dairy products, cold deli meats, soft cheeses, paté and salads that haven’t been prepared at home.

“Food Safety Week, which is promoted by the Food Safety Information Council, is also a timely reminder to educate people on the importance of food safety and refrigeration,” Ms Williamson said.

To learn more about food safety visit at www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/foodsafety or take the Food Safety Information Council’s Food Safety Quiz at www.foodsafety.asn.au to test your knowledge about the safest action to protect you and your family.


Media contact: 9222 4333

Follow us on Twitter: @WAHealth

or Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688

  • The Food Safety Information Council is Australia’s leading disseminator of consumer-targeted food safety information and a health promotion charity. Australian Food Safety Week is the major activity of the Food Safety Information Council. For further Information and how to donate see: www.foodsafety.asn.au