Summer is here, and so is the increased risk of food poisoning. There are more than four million suspected cases of food poisoning across Australia every year. With each increasing degree of ambient temperature where food is prepared and stored, the risk of food poisoning rises. Let’s bone up on the dangers of food poisoning.
- For a business, being associated with a case of food poisoning can be a traumatic experience. Firstly, being the cause or the suspected cause of making another person ill can be highly distressing for the owner and the team. Then, being publicly named as the cause of a food poisoning outbreak can be incredibly damaging to the brand.
- Food poisoning is a foodborne illness, the result of eating contaminated, spoiled or toxic food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. Most food poisoning cases are traced to bacteria, viruses or parasites. These bugs can often exist naturally on food but are killed by cooking, as in the salmonella bacteria found on chicken, but destroyed by the heat of a stove, oven or fryer. Sometimes a person ill with a virus such as norovirus attends work and spreads the bug into the food by coughing or by not washing their hands. There are rarer cases of bugs infecting frozen foods and water sources being infected with parasites, but the big thing this summer is to keep it clean and watch those temperatures!
- Food needs to be kept at 5°C or below. When cooked, food needs to be at 60°C or above. Between these two temperatures is the danger zone. Under 5°C bugs are dormant. Above 60°C and they are cooked to death. If food is left out at ambient temperature for less than two hours, it can be returned to the fridge and served later. If it has been out for more than two hours and under four, it must be consumed immediately. If food has been out for more than four hours, chuck it.
- Perhaps the biggest cause of food poisoning is raw egg. This incredibly nutritious food is also a superfood for bugs. And despite how well-cleaned eggs are, they can still be contaminated with salmonella from the chook that laid that egg. Buy eggs from suppliers that keep eggs refrigerated and keep eggs at 4°C or under. Discard cracked or dirty eggs. If making a recipe that requires raw egg, such as some mousses and mayonnaise, reconsider the dish. Raw egg mayonnaise has been the cause of some of the worst food poisoning cases. Consider using pasteurised egg products or gently cook yolks until they begin to thicken before using them. Wash hands and surfaces after handling eggs, and do not eat raw dough or batter made with raw eggs.
- Chickens carry salmonella bacteria. It’s a fact of life, but it’s nothing that a little hygiene and common sense can’t control. Undercooked chicken and cross-contamination from raw chicken is a big cause of food poisoning. A lot of the bugs are destroyed during processing, but some can still make it through to the kitchen. Don’t wash chicken. The splash around the sink can spread the bugs. Pat carcasses and pieces dry with a clean paper towel and discard properly. Use dedicated colour-coded chopping boards for prepping chicken. Any liquid from raw chicken should be considered contaminated and should never come into contact with any other food. Wash in hot water over 75°C or sanitise. Sanitise benches and wash hands afterwards. Make sure all chicken dishes are cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 75°C.
- Keep a clean kitchen and wash hands between handling at-risk foods such as eggs, poultry, fish and meat. Don’t forget that cooked rice and potatoes are high-risk foods; keep them refrigerated once cooked. Keep surfaces clean and sanitised and keep raw and cooked foods separated. Make sure the fridges are summer ready by checking working temperatures and checking those seals. Keep it cool, clean, covered and quick this summer to keep the bugs at bay.
As seen in summer 22/23