The charitable group Food Safety Information Council has released a report card detailing Australia’s food safety record on the inauguration of World Food Safety Day.

On the June 7 milestone, the council reported there are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, which translates into about 16 out of every 100 people if each reported case is for a different individual. The 4.1 million cases result in an average of 31,920 hospitalizations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors. The Food Safety Information Council’s role is to educate consumers about safe food handling practices in their homes to reduce cases of foodborne illness.

Increasing Salmonella and Campylobacter
Lydia Buchtmann, communications director at the Food Safety Information Council, said an increase in cases could be due to new testing methods such as whole genome sequencing but the country also has a hot climate and chicken is a popular meat.

“The estimated overall rate of foodborne disease in Australia is on par with other westernized nations such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand with an individual chance of getting food poisoning once every six years,” she told Food Safety News.

“However, there are increasing numbers of Salmonella and Campylobacter infections compared to these similar countries and the Food Regulation Standing Committee has given priority to reducing these numbers.

“Because of this we have focused on community education about safe cooking and handling of poultry, hamburgers and sausages as well as the risks of raw and minimally cooked egg dishes. The Food Regulation Standing Committee is focusing on food handler education about raw eggs.”

Currently, Australian authorities are investigating a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to eggs with 171 cases in New South Wales, five in Victoria, three in Queensland and one in Tasmania.

“At this stage with Salmonella Enteritidis only found in a few sporadic cases we are just reminding consumers of our normal advice not to prepare raw or minimally cooked eggs for vulnerable people such as pregnant women, the elderly and the immune compromised,” said Buchtmann.

Preparing for Australian Food Safety Week
Consumer research has shown:

  • A third of all households have at least one vulnerable person at risk of severe illness if they get food poisoning, for example pregnant women, the elderly and people with reduced or partially immature immune systems such as cancer patients and young children.
  • 70 percent of Australians don’t know the safe cooking temperature for foods that may be contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter, such as poultry and egg dishes
  • 36 percent are taking a risk by eating raw egg dishes, with 10 percent eating raw egg dishes at least once a month.

The theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day is “Food Safety: Everyone’s Business.”

Council Chairwoman Cathy Moir said the group is now planning the 2019 Australian Food Safety Week.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing the number of cases of foodborne illness. The Food Safety Information Council is working with our members to build a food safety culture in Australia including running Australian Food Safety Week Nov. 10 to 17, 2019,” she said.

Six tips from the Food Safety Information Council to reduce the risk of food poisoning are:

  • Always wash hands with soap and running water and dry thoroughly before handling food and after handling raw meat or poultry, going to the toilet, touching your face or hair, or blowing your nose;
  • Never handle food for others if you are feeling sick;
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure it is running at or below 5 degrees C (41 degrees F);
  • Use a meat thermometer to check high risk foods such as sausages, rolled roasts, ground meat or poultry patties, and poultry are cooked to at least 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) in the thickest part of the meat. Egg dishes, such as quiche, should be cooked to 72 degrees C (161 degrees F);
  • Don’t put cooked meat or poultry on the same surface that raw meat or poultry has been on and use separate utensils, such as cutting boards, knives, tongs and pans for raw meat and poultry and cooked foods.
  • Use separate tools for foods such as fresh produce, which are served uncooked; and
  • Wash equipment such as chopping boards and knives in hot soapy water and dry thoroughly.

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