Meat thermometer ownership is growing but raw and rare meat consumption is increasing, according to an Australian charity.

The Food Safety Information Council conducts consumer research to see how Australians are doing in certain areas related to food safety.

Almost one in three surveyed have a meat thermometer at home, which is a 4 percent increase since the buy and use a meat thermometer campaign began a decade ago. A total of 14 percent have one in their household and have used it in the past month, compared to 11 percent in 2012 and 23 percent have a meat thermometer at home and have used it in the past year, up from 20 percent. Using a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure foods like poultry, cuts of meat, ground (minced) meat, and sausages are cooked in the center.

In the past six months, 28 percent of survey respondents said they had eaten raw meat such as beef, pork, lamb, kangaroo, and offal and 33 percent had eaten rare meat. People aged 18 to 34 are more likely to do this with almost half having eaten raw red meat in the past six months and half having eaten rare red meat in the same period. Only 21 percent of those above the age of 65 had eaten rare red meat in the past six months. Eating raw or rare meat increases the risk of food poisoning from pathogens such as E. coli and parasite infections such as Toxoplasmosis.

The report card was released ahead of World Food Safety Day on June 7. This year’s theme is: Food standards save lives.

Handwashing and wild mushroom stats

Cathy Moir, council chair, said food standards help keep the community safe and ensure that Australia continues to have a reputation for a safe and high-quality food supply.

There are an estimated 4.67 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 47,900 hospitalizations, 38 deaths, and a cost to the economy of AU $2.1 billion (U.S. $1.4 billion).

An Omnipoll survey for Global Handwashing Day in October 2022 showed that 82 percent of Australians always wash their hands after going to the toilet, which was down from 83 percent the previous year. A total of 53 percent said they always wash their hands before touching food, which was down from 58 percent. Handwashing is particularly important in preventing norovirus and hepatitis A infections.

Men were less likely than women to always wash their hands after going to the toilet and before touching food. Young people were also less likely than older age groups to always wash their hands after using the toilet and before touching food. Poor handwashing knowledge among young people is a concern as they can become employed as food handlers, said the charity.

In 2022, the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre received 382 calls regarding mushroom poisoning. Of these, 159 were from people ingesting wild mushrooms intentionally, either foraging for food or recreationally. They also included 196 mushroom exposures in children under 15 years old. The number of calls was down from 549 in 2020.

The charity also urged people to get food safety advice from reputable sources rather than online influencers, some of whom have been promoting risky activities such as eating raw liver and dumpster diving for scavenged food.

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