Why is food safety and hygiene important?
One word: listeria. Listeria is a serious form of food poisoning that any of us – you, me, our kids, our dinner guests – can be lowered with today, tomorrow or the next day if we’re slack about food preparation and storage.
Anyone can get listeria from the most innocuous of sources and it can be fatal. This Australian Food Safety Week – 10 – 17 November, we take a closer look at this year’s theme i.e. food poisoning.
Food poisoning – take it seriously
Why? Simply because most of us don’t take food poisoning as seriously as we should. Most of us see it as little more than an annoying and slightly embarrassing bug, yet a great excuse for a day off as we cut a path between bed and bathroom.
Such thinking is dangerous. Of course, none of us wants to be bent over a toilet bowl or sitting on it for a few diabolical days, but that’s our perception of food poisoning – scary, but not scary enough.
Again, food poisoning isn’t always a silly old stomach upset we can laugh about when the colour comes back to our cheeks.
Australian Food Safety Week will be asking people to share their food poisoning horror stories so we can all be more aware. Here’s why.
Food poisoning can be fatal
Recently rockmelon contamination resulted in deaths in Australia. Yes, rockmelons; not chicken or fish or shellfish; an innocent fruit contaminated with listeria.
The fact is any raw food can be contaminated with deadly bacteria like listeria as our environment – the air we breathe, the surfaces we touch – are all swimming in germs.
Don’t forget, food poisoning affects some more than others. Pregnant women, elderly people and anyone with a weak immune system can be in serious trouble if struck down by a bug.
What does all that small print on food labels actually mean? Well, it means a lot and can make a huge difference to your health. Find out How to read Nutrition Labels in our previous blog.
How can we lower our risk of food poisoning?
If you’re particularly at risk of food poisoning or have a weak constitution, there are some things you want to avoid:
- Those delicious looking cooked meats and sandwiches laying unwrapped and exposed in glass deli cabinets? Sorry, they’re an upset stomach waiting to happen.
- How about cold, cooked chicken – should you buy it? Do so at your peril.
- Same with soft cheeses, pates, meat spreads, and even soft serve ice cream.
- Of course, all raw seafood is a huge risk, but you should also be suspicious of cooked, ready-to-eat peeled prawns.
Quarantine your cutting boards
If you’re cutting raw chicken, don’t use the same board to slice your salad ingredients. Raw juices from chicken can cause serious illness. So keep a cutting board specifically for each meat and another for fruit and veggies. Wash them like your life depends on it.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water before touching food.
Follow storage and cooking instructions to the letter.
Be it freezer, refrigerator or shelf, storage instructions (and use by dates) are explicitly designed to minimise health risks. Same with cooking; all high-risk foods such as chicken, minced meat and sausages need to be cooked thoroughly.
Whether you think you have a powerful immune system or not, you should follow all these guidelines.