Casual Attitude Over Food Could Put People At Risk

  • Bill English

Minister of Health Bill English said New Zealanders' tendency to take a casual approach towards cooking over Christmas and the summer holidays could put people at risk of food poisoning.

"There has been a huge increase this year in the number of people who have had food poisoning because of food they have eaten, which may be related to the mild winter this year.

"With Christmas and summer holidays approaching, it is important people remember to follow simple food safety principles to avoid food poisoning as we all tend to be more casual especially at barbeques and big get togethers.

"The 8,991 notified cases of campylobacteriosis for the year to October was a 23 percent jump compared to the same time last year. With salmonellosis there has been a 43 percent increase compared to last year, taking the total to 1,772 cases by October. The number of cases of yersiniosis (another bacterial disease transmitted by food and water) leapt to 467, a 15 percent increase.

"These are all nasty forms of food poisoning - they can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.

"The warmer temperatures allow bacteria to survive for longer and multiply on contaminated food resulting in larger doses of bacteria if the food is not properly cooked before being eaten.

"Chicken in particular can cause problems if it's not handled correctly. Chicken consumption has increased by 42 percent over the last 10 years but there is a concern that people still don't know how to cook it correctly.

"The three golden rules are keep it cool, cook it thoroughly and cover it before eating," said Mr English.

Key ways to protect against food borne illness

Reduce bacterial contamination and growth:
- store foods at an appropriate temperature out of the 'danger zone' (between 4 deg C and 65 deg C - ie fridge and piping hot)
- do not leave perishable food at room temperature for more than a total of two hours
- cook and reheat foods, especially meat and poultry, so they are piping hot throughout
- use cooked foods, that have been stored in the refrigerator, within two days
- never reheat food more than once
- wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly
- freeze foods quickly, thaw in the refrigerator or microwave, avoid re-freezing thawed foods
- Protect food from cross-contamination through appropriate storage, handling and sanitation:
- keep raw and prepared foods separate during preparation, serving and storage
- store prepared foods above raw foods in the refrigerator
- store foods in covered containers whether in the fridge or the cupboard
- keep food storage, preparation areas and equipment clean using hot soapy water. It is a good idea to have separate cutting boards for raw foods such as meat and poultry, and ready to eat foods such as cheese, cooked meats and salads.

Ensure good personal hygiene:
- ensure adequate personal hygiene including hand washing after handling raw foods, refuse, animals, visiting the toilet or changing nappies
- do not cough or sneeze over food
- do not smoke when preparing food (handling cigarettes puts saliva and bacteria from skin or lips onto your hands which may then contaminate the food)

For further information contact:
Liz Rowe, Press Secretary, 04-471 9154 (wk) NB: Mr English will join Dr Jane O'Hallohan, Medical Officer of Health, at Civic Square on Lambton Quay at 1.15 pm today where there will be a barbeque set up to promote food safety.