Safety and first aid

Safe holiday food handling

Safe food handling habits should always be followed when preparing and cooking food, but these extra tips will help ensure that summer barbecues, social functions and even the traditional Easter lunch don't become a source of food poisoning.

There are many ways for food to become contaminated, especially in warm weather when temperatures increase and people gather in large groups to share food and drinks. This can be because:

  • the bacteria in food multiply quickly at higher temperatures
  • there are more people preparing food in the kitchen (the average home kitchen is not designed for large volumes of cooking)
  • more food is being prepared than at other times of the year
  • we prepare and cook food in unfamiliar surroundings such as parks or at other people’s houses.

Reduce your risk

If you are hosting or attending a large gathering, these extra food safety tips will help reduce your risk of illness:

Transporting food
  • Be extra careful with seafood. Ask for your seafood to be packed with ice, transport it home in an esky or cool box and place in the fridge immediately.
  • Keep food cool outdoors. When refrigeration is not available, transport and store high risk foods (raw meat, seafood, dairy foods and other perishable foods) in a portable car fridge, insulated cool box or an esky with plenty of ice.
Storing food
  • Overloading your fridge and freezer reduces their ability to cool food safely. Keep low risk items such as cool drinks, alcohol and water in eskies to free up fridge space.
  • Always cover meats and store in the fridge at or below 5 °C.
  • Follow the ‘4-hour / 2-hour rule’:
    If food that should be kept cold or hot has been left at temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C for a total of:
    • less than 2 hours – it must be refrigerated or used immediately
    • more than 2 hours, but less than 4 hours – it must be used immediately
    • more than 4 hours or longer – it must be thrown out.
  • Store refrigerated food below 5 ºC as soon as possible.

More information

Contact Environmental Health Services at your local government (external site).

Food Unit, Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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