Australia’s food safety report card for the past 12 months is “mixed,” according to the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC).

There was a decline in reported Salmonella infections and a survey found fewer people are washing chicken. However, another poll revealed handwashing had decreased while poisonings continue to be recorded linked to wild mushrooms.

The report card was released ahead of the fourth World Food Safety Day on June 7.

Australia sees an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning each year that result in 31,920 hospitalizations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.

Mixed results and social media sales
Cathy Moir, FSIC chair, said: “This past 12 months has seen a mixed report card for Australian food safety and now we are out and about with relaxing public health measures required to control COVID-19 infections we need to make sure we are following basic food safety tips such as correct handwashing, cooking processes and refrigeration temperatures.”

The council also criticized some social media firms such as Facebook and WeChat for hosting advertisements for sales of unregulated food and advised people not to risk buying anything from an unregulated seller.

A study in Communicable Diseases Intelligence showed a 27 percent reduction in reported salmonellosis cases in Australia in 2020 linked to public health measures to control COVID-19 transmission compared with the previous five years.

Factors behind the decline include restaurant and food business closures during coronavirus lockdowns and fewer international travelers acquiring food poisoning abroad. People may have been less likely to seek medical attention and there may have been changes in laboratory testing capacity.

A consumer survey found 49 percent of Australian cooks were still washing raw whole chicken before cooking. However, this was down from 60 percent when the question was asked in 2011. Washing raw poultry can spread bacteria to hands, surfaces and other foods that may not be cooked. It is also unnecessary as cooking poultry correctly will kill any bacteria.

Another survey, in October 2021, revealed there had been a 15 percent decrease in the number of times people washed or sanitized their hands a day, on average, since the previous year.

Following floods and wet weather, wild mushrooms have been growing. There have been some cases of death cap mushroom poisoning including a young child in Victoria and two young children and a man in the Australian Capital Territory, all of whom were hospitalized. FSIC advice is not to pick or eat wild mushrooms and to clear any of them growing where children play.

Other WFSD events
Other countries are also marking World Food Safety Day with different activities, including a dance challenge to raise awareness about the importance of food safety from June 7 to 14 in Mongolia.

The Argentinian Food Safety Commission and Argentinian Microbiology Association are holding a webinar on June 6 and the African Union Commission is running a virtual event on June 6 and 7. A symposium is set for June 7 in Saudi Arabia.

INFOSAN is organizing a webinar on improving emergency response in food safety while Environmental Health Australia and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) in the United States will present a series of live discussions on June 7.

A virtual run is being organized by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority and a Barcelona Food Safety Forum event will focus on alternative sources of protein.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) are holding two roundtables with one promoting the #EUChooseSafeFood campaign.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) will be talking about food safety and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on June 7.

A Danish Agriculture and Food Council and Food Nation webinar will focus on plant-based foods. Italy’s Scientific Society for Evidence on Environment, Food and Workplace Safety is organizing a webinar about edible and poisonous mushrooms and supplements.

The South African Food Safety Summit, sponsored by Marler Clark, will take place on June 7 and 8.

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