Australian men and young adults rate badly in food safety report card – Food Safety Week 12-17 November 2007

Media release

Monday 12 November 2007

Australian men and young adults rate the worst in their knowledge and practice of food safety according to a report card released today by the Food Safety Information Council at the beginning of its 10th anniversary Food Safety Week.

Dr Michael Eyles, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, said the Council’s tracking research shows that most Australians have greatly improved their food safety knowledge in the 10 years since the founding of the Food Safety Information Council.

‘For example, 97% of Australians now recognise that you should wash your hands using soap and dry thoroughly before handling food. This compares with 54% who weren’t aware they should wash their hands in 1997 – a 43 percentage point improvement,’ Dr Eyles said.

‘Today, 89% of Australians know they have to wash a chopping board in soapy water and dry thoroughly between chopping up meat or chicken and before using it to chop salad. This compares with 70% in 1997 – a 16 percentage point improvement. There has also been a 12 percentage point improvement on knowledge to cook sausages and hamburgers all the way through and a 52 percentage point improvement on knowing to refrigerate leftovers as soon as they have stopped steaming.

‘But with an estimated 5.4 million cases of food poisoning each year in Australia, and with one fifth of these cases linked to practices in the home, we can still do a lot better simply by getting back to basics – clean, chill, cook and separate.

‘I am particularly concerned that men’s overall knowledge of food safety continues to be lower than women’s. This may not have been an issue in the past but today men play an active role in the kitchen and they could be putting their family and friends at risk.

‘Also young adults have less food safety knowledge, although that changes when they reach their thirties and may become parents. Many young people work in the food service industry, even if it is only for a period while they are studying, so it is important they have a sound knowledge of food safety.

‘I am shocked that a Food Safety Information Council survey found that 7% of women and 29% of men didn’t wash their hands at all after using the bathroom in the food hall in a shopping centre. There is no excuse for this as we know that nearly all Australians understand how to wash their hands correctly. Correct hand washing is a good way to reduce your risk of food poisoning and you may also find that you also get fewer bouts of colds and flu as well.

‘To celebrate our 10th anniversary we have prepared a Back to the Basics package of material to help consumers understand the key food safety messages of cook, clean chill and separate. The package includes 4 instructional videos on how to wash hands correctly, how to stack a fridge, how to use a cooler safely and how to separate raw and ready to eat food. There is also a poster and a brochure available free of charge and a web based seminar. I urge you to look at all this information on the website and to order copies of the printed material,’ Dr Eyles concluded.

The web seminar can be accessed at

The Food Safety Information Council is Australia’s leading disseminator of consumer targeted food safety information. It is a non-profit entity supported by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, state and territory health and food safety agencies, local government, and leading professional, industry and community organisations. The Council’s major activity is National Food Safety Week ,held each year in the second week of November.

There is more information on the Food Safety Information Council’s website

Media contact: Juliana Madden Food Safety Information Council 0417 491 139

Lydia Buchtmann FSANZ 0411 268 525

Food Safety Information Council report card on Australian food safety

Hand washing knowledge.

  • In 1997 [1] 18.4% did not know the importance of washing their hands before preparing food, 39.5% of those that washed their hands didn’t use soap and 54.1% of respondents did not wash their hands correctly before preparing food
  • In 2006 [2] 97% recognised correctly that you should wash your hands using soap and dry thoroughly on a clean towel

Handwashing practical.

  • In a 2002 survey [3] , the best performers were primary school aged girls who all washed their hands. However, only 50% of the primary school aged girls washed their hands for the correct time and only 55% of this age group used soap correctly. The worst performers were males of all age groups with 29% of males observed failed to wash hands at all and only 31% of those observed used any soap.

Cross contamination.

  • In 1997 28.9% would reuse a utensil or just wipe it between chopping a raw product and a cooked one.
  • In 2006 87% recognised that they had to wash a chopping board in soapy water and dry it after cutting up raw meat or chicken and before using it to chop a salad.

Minced meat, hamburger and sausages

  • In 1997 20% would consume undercooked minced product.
  • In 2006 92% recognised correctly that sausages should be cooked all the way through and 83% recognised that hamburgers should be cooked all the way through.


  • In 1997 85% would leave leftovers to cool at room temperature before refrigeration.
  • In 2006 67% would correctly put it straight in the fridge



  • Female knowledge of food safety was better than male in all surveys


  • Food safety knowledge increased with age but decreased slightly with the over 60s
[1]   Jay, L Stephen, Derio Comar and Lachlan Govenlock. 1998 Hazards and exposure in the meat distribution, foodservice and home sector: MSHE:007 report prepared for the Meat Research Corporation. Np.

[2] Newspoll 2006 Food Safety Week Study for the Food Safety Information Council

[3] Food Safety Information Council 2002 Handwashing understanding and behaviour by consumers.