Consumer warning not to let meat and chicken drip on to salad – Food Safety Week 11-17 November 2002

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

The Food Safety Information Council today issued a warning to consumers to make sure that raw high-risk foods such as meat and chicken do not contaminate ready-to-eat food such as salads.

Food Safety Information Council Executive member Lydia Buchtmann said today that the risk of food poisoning as a result of cross contamination is becoming a concern.

‘It is estimated that there are 7 million cases of food poisoning every year in Australia. Cross contamination can be one of the causes of food poisoning and not everyone is aware of the risk. A national Newspoll telephone survey held in early November 2002 showed that 10% of those surveyed thought it was all right just to wipe a chopping board and knife rather than wash with soap and dry it between chopping meat or chicken and before chopping salad

‘Cross contamination can happen when bacteria from the surface of raw meat, poultry and raw vegetables with visible dirt (such as unwashed potatoes) get transferred onto ready to eat food, such as green salads, rice or pasta salads, bread or fruit. The bacteria on the raw food are killed when the food is cooked, but the ready to eat food gets eaten without further cooking — bacteria and all.

‘Hands are among the culprits in transferring bacteria from raw to ready to eat food, but chopping boards, knives and other cooking implements can also spread the contamination. Cooking utensils and chopping boards need to be carefully washed with warm water and detergent, and after washing, need to be thoroughly dried to further reduce their ability to transfer bacteria and prevent their growth.

‘Incorrectly storing raw food in the fridge by allowing it to come into direct contact with ready to eat foods, or allowing meat juices to drip onto cooked foods, fruit and other ready to eat food, are also causes of cross contamination.

‘Raw food, such as meat, poultry or fish should be stored at the bottom of the fridge or in a container to prevent meat and juices dripping onto other food. Make sure that it cannot directly touch other food. Ready to eat food should be stored covered in the fridge to further reduce the risks.

‘In the home it really doesn’t matter whether you have wooden, plastic or glass chopping boards so long as they are kept really clean and in good condition. The porous nature of wood makes it advisable to use plastic or glass chopping boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood. It may be easiest to have two boards — one for raw food and one for ready to eat food. All chopping boards should be scrubbed with warm water and detergent after preparing raw foods. Plastic chopping boards are good as they can be washed at high temperatures in the dishwasher. However, any board should be replaced when its surface becomes scratched because bacteria can hide in the scratches,’ Ms Buchtmann concluded.

The Food Safety Information Council messages are:

  • Keep hot food steaming hot
  • Keep cold food refrigerated under 5 ºC
  • Separate raw and cooked foods
  • Cook food properly
  • Keep kitchen and utensils clean.
  • Wash hands with soap and dry thoroughly

Advice on food safety can be obtained from the Food Safety Information Council website