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Simple actions can make a big difference to everyone’s food safety

Each year in Australia there are at least 4.1 million cases of gastroenteritis as a result of eating contaminated food.

During Australian Food Safety Week (November 14–21, 2020), Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Director of Public Health Dr Niall Conroy would like to remind the community of the importance of reporting and testing to confirm food-borne illness.

Early intervention helps to identify potential outbreaks and laboratory analysis helps identify the source of infection or contamination, which may help prevent further cases of illness.

“It seems really simple, but food poisoning can make you seriously ill, and can be fatal in some cases,” Dr Conroy said.

“Food-borne illnesses vary in severity. Many people might have diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or a fever. Many recover within a few days.

“Knowing how to prepare and cook food properly ensures that food does not become contaminated, and makes sure that harmful organisms are killed, or that their growth is slowed or stopped.”

Dr Conroy said anyone who suspected they had food poisoning should seek medical attention and request a sample be collected.

“It’s really important that you get a sample when food poisoning occurs so we can identify the cause,” he said.

“Unfortunately, many instances of food-borne illness go unreported because when people think they’ve become sick from eating out, they tend to just shrug it off.

“But if that happens, then our public health teams don’t know about clusters and can’t take action to protect the community.”

Dr Conroy said if two or more cases of a similar illness were experienced after eating a common food or meal, people should notify the Wide Bay Public Health Unit on 4303 7500 (Bundaberg) or 4184 1800 (Hervey Bay).

General food safety tips:

  • Thaw food in the refrigerator or microwave
  • Uncooked meats should be kept covered and separated from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination
  • Do not re‐freeze food once it has been thawed
  • Make sure all food used is fresh and within the use‐by date
  • Cook all meat, chicken and eggs thoroughly
  • Make sure hot foods are hot (above 60°C)
  • Make sure cold foods are cold (below 5°C)
  • Cool left over food in small containers in the fridge. Food should be cooled from 60°C to 21°C within 2 hours and from 21°C to 5°C within a further 4 hours.

More information can be found here:

Last updated: 16 November 2020