Officials in New Zealand have warned of an increased risk of food poisoning at home because of the festive season and warmer summer weather.

Ayesha Verrall, Minister for food safety, said an estimated 100,000 people get sick from unsafe food handling practices at home. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) reports that foodborne illness affects about 200,000 New Zealanders every year.

“That’s why the MPI is launching an awareness campaign, reminding consumers to follow the three C’s: clean, cook and chill, when handling, cooking and storing raw meats such as poultry, to avoid getting sick and paying the price,” said Verrall.

“A recent study on consumer food safety behavior and knowledge revealed most New Zealanders don’t believe food poisoning can be deadly or create long-term, health consequences -and they do believe the food they cook at home is safer than the local takeaway or café.”

Verrall said for many food poisoning can be mild consisting of a few days’ of an upset stomach, cramps, bloating and/or vomiting with a limited time off work or school.

“However, some people can and do experience more severe forms of foodborne illnesses as a result of picking up harmful bacteria and viruses like Campylobacter, Norovirus, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and Bacillus cereus. This is especially true for young tamariki (children), our elderly community, pregnant mothers and Kiwis who suffer from other health issues,” she said.

Food safety tips for summer include if in doubt, chuck it out; wash hands, not your chicken; cook meat through and know the rules on washing kitchen tools.

Australian advice
The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) in Australia has also come out with Christmas and summer entertaining food safety advice.

The charity said while the virus that causes COVID-19 isn’t likely to be spread via food it can be spread on surfaces so don’t share food or drinks, utensils, glasses and cutlery and no double dipping.

Cathy Moir, FSIC chair, said the period is going to be a particular challenge due to COVID-19 requirements as well as the usual need to be careful with food safety practices when catering for a lot of people in the hot summer weather.

“Our previous research found that one in three Australians are either in a vulnerable group for food poisoning themselves or live in a household with someone at risk. Any one of your guests could be in these vulnerable groups such as being pregnant, babies or toddlers, elderly or having reduced immune systems due to illness or certain medicines,” she said.

Food safety tips included guidance on handwashing, planning how much food you need, fridge space, avoiding raw or minimally cooked egg dishes, not washing chicken, checking the dates on products, refrigerating leftovers and how long to leave out chilled foods like patés, cold meats and soft cheeses.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)