Food safety tips for a microbe-free holiday season

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The holiday season is traditionally a time to eat, drink and be merry - and no one wants their festivities ruined by food poisoning.

Luckily, some simple food safety tips can keep your Christmas dinner and leftovers safe and delicious.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said festive feasting was great, but it was important to keep your Christmas dinner and leftovers safe in the Queensland heat.

“The hot weather can allow bacteria in food to stay in the temperature danger zone (5oC to 60oC) for long enough to grow to unsafe levels,” Dr Gerrard said.

“That’s why you need to be mindful of how long food has been out for. Food items are often left out of the fridge while entertaining, but if food has been left out for more than two hours it should be eaten or refrigerated immediately. After four hours, it must be thrown out.

“When handling food, washing your hands often and using separate chopping boards for raw meat, and ready to eat food such as fruit and vegetables, is key to a healthy holiday."

Dr Gerrard added that it’s also important you don’t overfill the fridge.

“Cool air needs to be able to circulate around the food to cool it properly,” Dr Gerrard said.

“To make more space in the fridge, drinks such as alcohol or soft drinks could be taken out and stored in an esky with ice.

“Also, don’t put hot foods in the fridge because it can raise the temperature in the fridge and put other food at risk. Allow hot food to stop steaming then refrigerate.”

Dr Gerrard also reminded Queenslanders to store leftovers properly to ensure they are safe to eat.

“Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer in sealed containers. Leftovers in general can safely last two to three days in the fridge,” Dr Gerrard said.

“When reheating leftovers, make sure they are hot all the way through. You may need to stir or turn the food halfway through reheating to ensure this happens.”

Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria are the most common cause of gastrointestinal disease reported in Australia.

“With 9,288 campylobacter cases and 3,047 salmonellosis cases reported in Queensland alone this year, let's be extra careful with food safety to enjoy a healthy and happy holiday," Dr Gerrard said.

These infections are typically acquired through consumption of undercooked poultry or poultry products or poor food hygiene and handling of raw poultry products such as chicken and eggs.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases include headache, fever, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Many people have mild symptoms and recover within a few days.

These uninvited guests usually show up six to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.

If symptoms persist for more than three days or are severe, medical advice should be sought.

Stay hydrated and keep our food safety tips in mind for a happy and healthy festive season.

Media contact: (07) 3708 5376