Food safety alert

Murrumbidgee Local Health District has issued a warning to consumers and caterers to store food properly and play close attention to personal hygiene throughout the heatwave conditions we are experiencing this summer.

About 1.5 million Australians suffer from food-related illnesses each year.

Public Health Director Tracey Oakman said storing and serving food at incorrect temperatures or keeping it for too long at room temperature, increases the likelihood of food poisoning.

“Many households and businesses have the important job of catering safely for large numbers of guests in the weeks ahead. This means that hosts have the responsibility to ensure guidelines for safe food handling and storage are implemented,’ she said.

“Raw meat, fish, poultry as well as, and this may surprise some, raw vegetables can contain large numbers of bacteria that can readily contaminate other food if they are not stored or handled carefully.

Its a good idea to check that all your refrigerators are chilled to lower than 5 degrees Celsius and that they’re not overstocked, hot foods need to be hot. Make sure hot foods are kept at least at 60 degrees Celsius, and if you’re reheating leftovers, all parts of the food need to reach 75 degrees Celsius before it can be safe to serve.” 

Mrs Oakman said If you are unsure of the quality of any food, remember the old saying if in doubt, throw it out. 

“We recommend people follow some simple guidelines for the safe handling, storage and serving of food,” she said.

“The safest way to thaw frozen food is either in a clean refrigerator or microwave; otherwise the longer it is left out at room temperature the more bacteria can multiply.

“Refrigerator temperature should be lower than 5 degrees Celsius and chilled food needs to be stored below this temperature, any higher and bacteria start to grow.

“Don’t overstock your fridge, there needs to be even distribution of temperature.”

Mrs Oakman said people should also watch their food preparation methods during the summer.

“Use different cutting boards and knives for raw and cooked food,” she said. “Of course if you are preparing food you should always wash dirty hands thoroughly to stop the spread of bacteria.”