How to ace the school lunch safety test

Published by the NSW Food Authority

Coordinating the back to school rush can be trying at the best of times but there is help at hand when it comes to ensuring school lunch safety.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said the risk of food spoiling and food poisoning is a common concern of many parents, particularly in the warm months of the first school term.

“As temperatures rise so does the risk of food poisoning,” Dr Szabo said.

“We do tend to see a seasonal trend where the rate of Salmonella, one of the most common bacteria associated with food poisoning, increases in summer.

“The basic rule of thumb is to keep it cool for school in order to reduce that risk.

The best way to keep food safe and also to avoid food spoiling in a lunchbox is to keep it cool.

“Food safety is of particular importance for children because they can be susceptible to the more severe consequences of food poisoning,” Dr Szabo said.

The NSW Food Authority recommends the following:

  • cold foods should stay cold, invest in an ice block and insulated lunch box to keep foods cold until lunchtime
  • freeze water bottles or drinks and place them in the lunch pack. The water or drinks will thaw by lunchtime, but will still be cold and assist in keeping the lunch cold
  • some food is safe without a cold source; these include whole fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, meat and fish in cans, bread, crackers and some spreads
  • ask children to keep packed lunches out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. A cool, dark place like a locker is better
  • if lunches are made the night before, keep them in the refrigerator overnight
  • if you are including dinner left overs as lunch the next day ensure the food is still fresh and has been stored correctly

“The other important thing to remember in going back to school is food allergies, whether it is your own child who suffers or playing your role in protecting other children who may have a food allergy,” Dr Szabo said.

“Most NSW schools and childcares have a nut free policy, because it is a high-risk allergen, but it is worth checking with your individual school about rules pertaining to foods containing allergens.”

Check out the school lunchbox page on the NSW Food Authority’s website for plenty of school lunch safety tips.

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Tuck into safe tucker this Australia Day

With Australia Day just 2 days away and our temperatures at extreme, the NSW Food Authority is urging people to keep an eye on the temperature of your food; keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

CEO of the NSW Food Authority Dr Lisa Szabo said temperature control is a key factor in reducing the risk of food poisoning especially when you’re cooking outdoors and enjoying the Aussie summer.

“Hot summer days and the traditional Australia Day BBQ are a perfect combination, however it’s also a perfect environment for bacteria to grow,” Dr Szabo said.

“There is typically a seasonal increase in Salmonella, one of the most common bacteria associated with food poisoning, during the warmer months.”

Food kept inside the danger zone of 5 to 60 degrees Celsius has an increased risk of bacterial growth, so it’s important to chill food below 5 degrees or heat it above 60.

Dr Szabo said cooking and eating outdoors does bring its own set of unique challenges but following some simple food safety rules can help reduce risk.

“I suggest that people begin by practicing the same level of hygiene at a BBQ or picnic as you would when cooking in your own kitchen at home and always start by thoroughly washing and drying your hands, if you don’t have access to soap and water then sanitising gel or wipes could be used as an alternative,” she said.

“Just like home it’s important to keep your preparation surfaces clean and being outside keep an extra vigilant eye out for pests like flies.”

The NSW Food Authority recommends that if you’re having a barbecue on 26 January, you follow a few simple tips for outdoor cooking and dining:

  • don’t eat cooked foods, or foods that should be refrigerated, that have been left out for more than two hours;
  • if you’re travelling, store uncooked and ready-to-eat foods in separate sealed containers and keep them cold during transport using a chiller bag or esky;
  • keep benches, equipment and tableware clean and dry;
  • some meats need to be cooked thoroughly, there should be no pink left in cooked meat like mince, sausages or chicken; and
  • use separate plates and utensils for cooking and serving.

For the NSW Food Authority’s full list of food safety tips for summer cooking and dining visit www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/summer

Keep Your Kid’s Lunchbox Safe

The typical Australian summer sizzling heat and our kids are getting ready to return to school here are 5 simple lunchbox food safety tips, issued by the Food Safety Information Council:

  • When buying lunchboxes choose ones that have room for a frozen drink or freezer block and are easy to clean and dry.
  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Make sure lunchbox foods are always well separated from other foods in the refrigerator, particularly raw meats, chicken and fish.
  • Keep the lunch cool in the fridge until you are about to leave home.

Food Safety Information Council Chair, Rachelle Williams advised ‘We need to transport food to school safely to ensure our kids don’t become one of the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. Bacteria can grow quickly in some foods, like cooked poultry and other meats, dairy products and sandwich fillings, so it is important to keep their lunchbox cool.

‘At school your child’s lunchbox will stay cool until lunchtime if kept in their school bag with a frozen drink or freezer block inside the lunchbox,’ Ms Williams concluded.

35 people affected by Salmonella Food Poisoning in SA

Toddler hospitalised as food poisoning linked to Gawler South Bakery salmonella worsensChicken salmonella outbreak

The number of salmonella poisoning cases linked to the Gawler South Bakery north of Adelaide has more than doubled in the past four days, SA Health has confirmed.

On Friday, health authorities reported 17 cases but that number has since increased to 35 and is expected to climb further.

Nine people have been hospitalised including two children, one aged two.

“We’ve now seen cases in people aged two years old up to 70 years old and we are anticipating more cases as further test results come through,” SA Health public health director Kevin Buckett said.

“This is a significant outbreak, it’s quite a large number of people.

“We don’t know yet that this outbreak is actually over. We know that the laboratories still have some stool samples waiting to be tested.”

The latest contamination has been linked to products “mostly with chicken in the ingredients”, including filled sandwiches, wraps, rolls and focaccias that are made and sold at the bakery.

This morning, food safety inspectors and council staff returned to the bakery, which has two Gawler outlets.

“We don’t think it’s the product that’s coming into the bakery that’s contaminated,” Dr Buckett said.

“Somehow there’s been cross-contamination associated with probably less than adequate sanitation and cleaning, and also the potential to mix raw food with cooked ready-to-eat food.

“The bakery has been given the all-clear to start preparing sandwiches and we will be up there again later in the week before they go out into the market place.”

SA Health said signs of salmonella include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, stomach cramps and loss of appetite.

Those symptoms can develop between 12 and 72 hours after exposure, and health authorities have urged anyone who develops them — especially young children, the elderly and pregnant women — to see their doctors.

An earlier salmonella outbreak at the bakery in October 2016 affected eight people.

Clearly it is time the SA Health department made food safety training mandatory as in most other Australian States.

Cook up a storm, not a disaster: Here’s how to use the right temperature to avoid food poisoning.

how-to-carve-a-turkey-2

If you’re planning to experiment with a bold new meat recipe or are cooking for a pregnant friend, an older relative or a very young child this Christmas, then heed this warning from the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC): use a meat thermometer and avoid poisoning your guests.

Although the caution might sound extreme, especially if you’re an experienced cook, the FSIC warns that there’s an increased risk of food poisoning incidents when the temperature climbs in summer.

FSIC’s council chairperson, Rachelle Williams, explains that most Australian home cooks are still measuring the temperature of their meat just by looking at their dish. Despite all the cooking skill in the world, this method is nowhere near fool-proof.

“We know from our latest research that only 25 per cent of Australian households own a meat thermometer and even fewer report using one in the previous month,” says Williams.

“You can’t tell if riskier foods like the Christmas turkey or rolled roasts are cooked to 75°C just by looking, you really need a meat thermometer.

“If you already have a meat thermometer, rummage through that kitchen drawer and start to use it. If you don’t have one why not pick one up from your local home ware shop or hardware store while you are out Christmas shopping. Thermometers don’t have to be expensive with some costing under $20 so they can make great presents too.”

FSIC estimates suggest over four million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, resulting in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and one million visits to doctors. This year, the FSIC has focused on increasing awareness of two escalating foodborne illnesses: Campylobacter and Salmonella infection. Both health concerns are more prevalent the warmer months, as there is a heightened risk of people eating food that has been sitting at dangerous temperatures, allowing bacteria to grow and causing illness.

Watch out for Salmonella poisoning as temps rise

Egg food safetyNSW Health is warning people to be wary of Salmonella poisoning as summer temperatures rise, with 201 cases already reported across the state in November 2017.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said careful preparation and storage of food is the best defence against salmonellosis – a type of gastroenteritis caused by Salmonella bacteria found in animals.

“Products containing undercooked eggs, and the spread of germs in the kitchen, are the most common source of salmonellosis outbreaks in NSW,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Salmonellosis can be quite severe and people sometimes have to be hospitalised to manage dehydration, particularly in young babies, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems.”

Salmonellosis symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually start around six to 72 hours after the contaminated food is eaten and usually last for four to seven days, but can continue for much longer.

Altogether 1391 salmonellosis cases were reported in NSW last summer.

“It is important that people do not prepare food for others while they are unwell with salmonellosis and, as a precaution, for 48 hours after symptoms have passed.”

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said to reduce the risk of Salmonella poisoning, consumers and food retailers can use commercially produced products instead of handmade mayonnaise and sauces when preparing food.

“It is also much safer to use commercially pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs in ready-to-eat products such as desserts and dressings,” Dr Szabo said.

“Businesses in NSW must comply with strict requirements around the use of raw eggs in foods. Retailers should remember that food laws in NSW prohibit the sale of eggs with dirty or cracked shells, which increase the risk of contamination, and should reject any eggs that are not intact.

“While preparing and handling food, keep benches and utensils clean and dry and do not allow cross contamination of raw and cooked products.”

Dr Sheppeard said food must be cooked thoroughly to kill Salmonella and food should not be left out in the heat. The longer food is left at room temperature the more the Salmonella bacteria will multiply. Refrigerated food should be kept at less than five degrees Celsius and hot foods should be kept above 60 degrees Celsius.

“Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but antibiotics are required in complicated cases,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Salmonellosis can take the joy out of the festive season but just a few simple precautions with the preparation and storage of food can make all the difference.”

For further information, see the Salmonellosis fact sheet on the NSW Health website.

Watch out for Salmonella poisoning as temperatures rise

With sizzling temperatures soaring into the 40’s in NSW this week, NSW Health is warning people to be wary of Salmonella poisoning.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health advises “Products containing undercooked eggs, and the spread of germs in the kitchen, are the most common source of salmonellosis outbreaks in NSW,”.

Salmonellosis is a type of gastroenteritis caused by Salmonella bacteria found in animals.

Careful preparation and storage of food is the best defence against salmonellosis, Dr Sheppeard said.   Food must be cooked thoroughly to kill Salmonella and food should not be left out in the heat. The longer food is left at room temperature the more the Salmonella bacteria will multiply. Refrigerated food should be kept at less than five degrees Celsius and hot foods should be kept above 60 degrees Celsius.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said to reduce the risk of Salmonella poisoning, consumers and food retailers can use commercially produced products instead of handmade mayonnaise and sauces when preparing food.

“It is also much safer to use commercially pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs in ready-to-eat products such as desserts and dressings,” Dr Szabo said.

“Businesses in NSW must comply with strict requirements around the use of raw eggs in foods. Retailers should remember that food laws in NSW prohibit the sale of eggs with dirty or cracked shells, which increase the risk of contamination, and should reject any eggs that are not intact.

“While preparing and handling food, keep benches and utensils clean and dry and do not allow cross contamination of raw and cooked products.”

Salmonellosis symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually start around six to 72 hours after the contaminated food is eaten and usually last for four to seven days, but can continue for much longer.

“Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but antibiotics are required in complicated cases,” Dr Sheppeard said.

For further information, see the Salmonellosis fact sheet on the NSW Health website.

How Australians will eat this Christmas

Here are a snippet of the results of a survey conducted by Woolworths into how Australians plan on eating this Christmas –

  • Australians will eat Christmas dinner with an average of eight people and will be sharing the cooking among all guests
  • almost two-thirds of Australia’s will share food preparation tasks with close to half saying family and friends will be supplying the drinks.
  • One in three Christmas hosts will be leaving it up to their guests to bring the snacks.
  • “ham will continue to take the top spot as their main meat feature on the Christmas table, along with turkey, while prawns will be the people’s seafood of choice and Christmas pudding will be the main showcase when it comes to dessert time”, claims Woolworths Director of Buying and Merchandising, Steve Donohue

If you’re interested to see more Woolworths Christmas statistics click the link –

http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2017/11/29/how-australians-will-be-eating-this-christmas.html

Australians clueless about safe cooking temperatures – Use a thermometer for great food, cooked safely every time (10 November 2017)

This article was published by Food Safety Information Council for Food Safety Week, Nov 11-18 2017.

Here’s a brief snapshot –

Despite celebrity cooking shows being all the rage, the Food Safety Information Council released a national survey today for Australian Food Safety Week that shows that the majority of Australians surveyed have no idea of safe cooking temperatures for high-risk foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry.

Food Safety Information Council Chair, Rachelle Williams, said that the Council was amazed that 70% of those surveyed reported that they didn’t know the safe cooking temperature for these high-risk foods.

‘Even worse, of those that reported they did know the correct temperature, most were wrong with 15% saying below the safe temperature of 75°C and 9% stating it should be 100°C or more, which would be a pretty burnt piece of food.

Click the link to read more –

http://foodsafety.asn.au/australians-clueless-about-safe-cooking-temperatures-10-november-2017/

 

Gold Coast Restaurant fined for poisoning diner

Top One Chinese Restaurant, at Australia Fair, Southport has been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with food safety laws after toxic chemicals were mistakenly put into a salt shaker.

As a result of the mishap, a diner sustained acid burns in his mouth.

Court documents show Environmental Health officers who attended the restaurant later found the problem – a number of “unlabelled containers” of white substances, including a 10kg tub of caustic soda in a cupboard at the restaurant. Testing the shaker given to them by the customer’s daughter, they found it contained sodium hydroxide.

This is commonly known as caustic soda.

Terry Moore, from the Gold Coast Public Health Unit, said the court action sent a message to the industry.

“Poisons such as a caustic soda should be appropriately labelled and stored safely. Staff must also be trained in the safe use and storage of poisons,” Moore told the Gold Coast Bulletin.