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.


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

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.


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.


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 –



Hemp Foods OK for Sale in Australia

The prohibition of ‘superfood’ hemp is over.

On 12 November 2017 the Council of Australian Governments will officially pass legislation to legalise hemp for consumption as a food in Australia.

Hemp has a five-star health rating.  It is recognised as having nutritional benefits and acknowledged as one of only five key natural superfoods.  Hemp also has a complete amino acid profile, including all eight essential amino acids.

Hemp contains THC, the hallucinogenic substance found in marijuana. It has been decided that hemp seeds are low enough in THC that people can’t get high from eating them.

The crop has been grown in Tasmania for use in cosmetics and shampoos since the 1990s. Until now, hemp products have been limited to use in the textiles, building and cosmetics industries.  Some of the food products containing hemp include hemp versions of porridge, muesli, protein powder, oil, chai, tea and oil gel capsules.

Click the following link to read the full article –



Aussies wasting nearly $10 billion of food each year

Australians are collectively wasting $9.6 billion on food each year according to new research released by RaboDirect.

In a survey of 2,300 people aged between 16 and 65, the RaboDirect Food & Farming Report shows that Australians are wasting an average of 14 per cent of their weekly grocery buy. In total, this equates to over $1050 each year.

The report reveals the habits which are contributing to food waste in Australia, including never eating food past its ‘best before’ date and not eating leftovers.

Why is food being wasted?

The leading cause of food waste according to 82 per cent of respondents is a product going off and becoming unusable before they can use it.

43 per cent of people stated they buy too much food, making this the second leading cause of food waste in Australia.

The results of the RaboDirect report show that food waste is still an issue in Australia, according to the Head of RaboDirect, Beden Cronin.

“Australians can make a few small changes to everyday habits, such as using leftovers for lunches through the week, which will help reduce food waste,” Cronin said.

Here’s the full article POSTED BY NICHOLAS NAKOS–




GMO Labels Explained

Want to know more about our world of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s and what these labels on food mean? Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld explains in this video –


NSW Food Authority investigates Sydney Hep A outbreak

NSW Food Authority and NSW Health are investigating a hepatitis A outbreak in the Sydney region.

The investigation comes after 10 people have contracted hepatitis A within the area over the past five weeks. On average, there is only two locally acquired hepatitis A cases each year.

Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority are assessing patterns of food distribution and any links to overseas outbreaks. She said no specific food has yet to be connected to the outbreak.

NSW Health said that when hepatitis A outbreaks occur in Australia they are either linked to the consumption of contaminated food products or person-to-person spread.

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that spreads in contaminated food or through poor hygiene. Symptoms of hepatitis infection may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.

The risk of spreading hepatitis A can be reduced by washing hands thoroughly, particularly after going to the toilet, touching soiled linen or items, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food.

It is extremely vital to ensure that all staff working with food are well informed of their responsibilities when it comes to food hygiene.  Contact CFT for more information or visit CFT here


To read the full article posted by ANDREA HOGAN on 6th September 2017, click here



From 1 August 2017, smoking at Victorian venues will be banned:

  • in outdoor areas at hospitality and food venues used for eating food. This includes footpath dining areas, courtyards and beer gardens during times food is being eaten, or is available to be eaten
  • in all outdoor areas at food fairs. A food fair is an event where the principal activity is the supply of food for consumption at the event
  • within 10 metres of a food stall or food vendor at organised outdoor event (other than a food fair).

To complement smoke-free outdoor dining, smoking is banned in an outdoor drinking area if any part of that area is within 4 metres of an outdoor dining area, unless separated by a wall of at least 2.1 metres high. This means the two areas can be separated by either:

  • a 4 metre buffer zone; or
  • a wall of at least 2.1 metres high.

If the separation requirement is not met, smoking is banned in an outdoor drinking area. This law applies to the same venue as well as to neighbouring venues.

For more information about these reforms and to obtain your “No Smoking” signage, please visit –