The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) has urged consumers not to become complacent about food poisoning.

The message comes as part of Australian Food Safety Week which runs from Nov. 13 to 20. The focus is on food safety in emergency situations and how understanding the hazards and preparing for them can help reduce risks associated with foodborne illness and contamination.

Each year, there are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in the country which result in 31,920 hospitalizations, 86 deaths and a million visits to doctors.

Keep up handwashing
Cathy Moir, FSIC council chair, said that as COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted, it was important not to put additional strain on health systems through preventable cases of food poisoning.

“We really want people to keep up a high rate of handwashing especially after going to the toilet and before handling food. This year’s theme ‘Food safety – be prepared’ is aimed at building resilience in the community by setting up a basic food safety toolkit and encouraging public engagement with food safety courses. In addition to COVID-19, we have had increasing numbers of other natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and major power outages,” she said.

Natural disasters can leave homes and businesses without power, which means a lack of safe refrigeration for food, gas for cooking and potentially safe water for drinking and cleaning.

The toolbox includes buying a fridge thermometer and a cooking/meat thermometer. Use the former to check the fridge is running at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or lower to stop most food poisoning bacteria from multiplying and reduce food waste.

The cooking thermometer should be used to check that foods such as poultry, sausages, hamburger patties and other meat, liver, leftovers and rolled roasts reach at least 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) in the center. Egg dishes need to be at least 72 degrees C (160 degrees F) in the middle.

FSIC also encouraged people to take a basic food safety course to protect themselves and their families as well as potentially opening up job opportunities as food handlers or to start a food business.

Prepare for an emergency
Previous research, released for Global Handwashing Day in mid-October, found there had been a 15 percent decrease in the number of times Australians washed or sanitized their hands a day, since the same period in September 2020.

Grant Mathers, from Rockhampton Regional Council in Queensland, said the campaign was about building resilience in the community.

“We are facing a potentially turbulent disaster season with an increased risk of bushfires, floods and cyclones — all with the potential to cause major power outages. Now is the time to take stock of what you might need in your emergency kit, and this includes water and food,” he said.

“Pack enough non-perishable food and water to last at least three days – in case you lose power, or if you need to leave your home. Remember to store food that you know your family will eat — fussy kids are no fun in an emergency — and that any dietary needs are catered for. If you are able to stay in your home and you experience any temporary interruption to power, you need to check that your fridge is consistently running at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or below to stop the growth of most food poisoning bacteria.”

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