Avert a dining disaster this winter
Fancy some salmonella soup, followed by bacteria stroganoff and a severe case of diarrhoea, vomiting and fevers?
These and more could be on your menu if you’re not careful in the kitchen this winter.
While food poisoning is more common in summer, Queensland Health say thousands of people fall foul of gastrointestinal diseases each winter.
Between 1 June and 31 August 2018, there were 2490 cases of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella (549), campylobacter (1795) and Yersinia (144) across the state.
“These infections can be severe, especially for babies, older people and people with compromised immune systems,” Health Protection Unit executive director Sophie Dwyer said.
“The symptoms can be very harsh, ranging from diarrhoea and vomiting to fever and abdominal pain, and last for a number of days.
“In some cases, these illnesses can cause serious health complications including dehydration and the infection may spread from the intestines to other parts of the body, causing damage to tissue and organs.
“That’s why it’s important to practice safe food hygiene all-year round.”
Ms Dwyer said hearty meals like stews, casseroles and soups were popular over winter but care should be taken when preparing and storing food in bulk.
“During winter, people may be more likely to cook more meals for freezing and refrigeration,” she said.
“While this is a good, practical idea, it’s important that safe food preparation practices are followed. This applies to the full process – from the handling of the raw ingredients to the storage of the meals.
“For example, make sure the food cools quickly, using smaller containers or placing them in cool water, so it can be refrigerated before bacteria that survived the cooking process can grow and multiply.
“Store the meals carefully to prevent cross-contamination. This means you don’t stack the fridge Tetris-style, which can affect the temperature and spoil food. Also, you don’t want juices from one meal leaking into another.”
Ms Dwyer said care needed to be taken when using appliances such slow cookers, urging people to:
- make sure the cooker, utensils and work area are clean
- always defrost meat or poultry right through to the centre before putting it in the cooker
- defrost in the refrigerator, never at room temperature
- ensure the cooker reaches a bacteria-killing temperature
- make sure food stays at 60°C or above until it’s ready to eat
- avoid overloading the slow cooker
- keep the lid on to hold the heat, only removing it to stir or check the food is cooked
- use a food thermometer to check the temperature in the middle of food to sure that your food is at a safe cooking temperature.
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