Australian food safety week is highlighting raw and risky food with a call to buy and use a meat thermometer.

The focus from Nov. 12 to 19 is on the risk of food poisoning from raw or minimally cooked meat, poultry, fish, eggs and vegetables as well as possible infections by parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii.

The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) is also marking its 25th anniversary this year.

A study by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian National University found that an estimated 4.67 million cases of food poisoning each year result in 47,900 hospitalizations, 38 deaths and a cost of more than AUS $2 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion). 

Visual checks don’t work
Cathy Moir, FSIC chair, said a recent survey found only 29 percent of Australian households own a meat thermometer and only 14 percent have used it in the past month.

“You can’t tell if your food is cooked safely just by looking at it. The only way to ensure your meat or poultry is cooked correctly is to purchase and use a meat thermometer. We are urging people to get that meat thermometer out of the drawer or purchase one if you don’t have one already. Most supermarkets, BBQ outlets and kitchenware shops stock them,” she said.

The charity recommended using a digital meat thermometer and listed temperatures foods should reach when measured in the center.

Beef, lamb, kangaroo in whole cuts like chops, steaks, pieces and roasts need to be at least 63 degrees C (145 degrees F) and left to rest three to five minutes after removing them from the heat. Pork whole cuts and pieces to 70 degrees C and roasts to between 70 degrees C and 75 degrees C (158 to 167 degrees F) and leave to rest for the same time.

Beef, lamb, kangaroo, or pork made into sausages, hamburgers or mince as well as rolled roasts, liver and other offal plus all poultry should be cooked to at least 75 degrees C (167 degrees F).

Egg and egg dishes such as quiche should be cooked to 72 degrees C (161 degrees F) in the center.

Advice from local councils
“Remember to always clean and sanitize your meat thermometer between uses. Hygiene is critical to food safety so always wash your hands before handling food and after handling raw meat, chicken, and eggs. Raw fruit and vegetables such as salad veggies can also be a food poisoning risk so make sure you always wash them under running water before eating,” said Moir. 

This year’s theme warns about the risk of eating raw or minimally cooked foods which can increase the chances of food poisoning, said Grant Mathers from Rockhampton Regional Council in Queensland.

“These types of foods can also increase your chances of getting parasite infections such as toxoplasmosis,” he said.

Byron Shire Council in New South Wales requires all permanent, temporary and mobile food businesses to go through an approval process before they can operate.

“The objective is to ensure that people aren’t exposed to unnecessary risks caused by the mishandling of food. What people might not be aware of is that food poisoning can lead to some pretty nasty illnesses. The advice around eating raw meat, like sashimi, is to ensure it’s kept at 5 degrees C or under that temperature,” said Sarah Nagel, from the council.

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