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Avoid nasty surprises this Christmas

Thursday 19 December 2019

Prawns on ice

During the festive season, Far North Queenslanders are being urged to take precautions to avoid food poisoning.

At this time of year, between the parties and family gatherings, there’s an increased risk that we may consume foods not at their freshest.

Every year, more than five million Australians are estimated to contract a food-borne illness, 32,000 people are hospitalised, and sadly, around 80 die.

“A number of bugs can cause food poisoning, however the two most common are Campylobacter and Salmonella,” said Brad Milligan, Manager Environmental Health.

So far this year, 456 people in the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service area have become sick with Campylobacter, while there have been 174 reported cases of Salmonella.

“Raw foods can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses in many ways, including unwashed hands; dirty kitchen equipment including tea towels, contact with other contaminated food or from soil, compost or dirty irrigation water used to grow the food particularly leafy greens and uncooked fruit and vegetables,” Mr Milligan said.

“There’s also an increased risk of food poisoning if cooked foods, including Aussie Christmas favourites like prawns are left out of refrigeration.”

Mr Milligan said as we are in cyclone season, it is also important for residents to check emergency supplies and management plans to stay safe before, during and after any storm events.

“Long-life food products should be checked to ensure that they are within their expiry date and disposed of if the packaging is damaged, swollen or the label cannot be easily read and the food identified,” he said.

“If we do have a cyclone or similar event that leads to a power outage, remember that any food stored in a fridge or freezer can spoil quickly.”

If the electricity fails, remember the following tips:

  • Record the time the power went out
  • Minimise the opening of fridge and freezer doors to keep the internal temperature as cool as possible
  • Refrigerated foods should be used or discarded within four hours
  • If foods that should be refrigerated are allowed to warm for two hours or more, they shouldn’t be eaten
  • Frozen foods should last for 24 hours, provided the freezer has been kept sealed

For more tips on how to stay food safe over summer, visit

Last updated: 19 December 2019