Back to Uni warning on food poisoning


Media release

19 February 2007

Too much partying may well be the concern for those parents about to wave off their young people moving out to take up apprenticeships, higher education, travel or work this week but the Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, Professor Tom McMeekin, advises that food poisoning is also a worry.

“It’s great to leave home to pursue your dreams, but it can turn into a nightmare if you’re among the estimated 5.4 million cases of food borne disease each year,” he says.

Research consistently shows that young people, especially young men, have the worst knowledge of food safety. Kitchens in group houses, hostels and on campus accommodation can be havens for food borne bacteria due to the number of people using them, and the varying degrees of food preparation skills and hygiene expectations.

Professor McMeekin says the simple, practical tips put together by the Food Safety Information Council should be baseline behaviour for us all, but many young people either don’t seems to know them or ignore them.

“Minimising the risk of food poisoning is well worthwhile and the tips are straightforward.”

  • The handwashing 20+20 rule: wash (for 20 seconds) and dry your hands (for another 20 seconds) using plenty of soap, warm water and a clean hand towel.
  • Clean kitchen bench tops, knives, utensils and chopping boards before, during and after preparing foods. Always thoroughly wash boards before changing its use from raw to cooked foods and vice versa.
  • Defrost frozen meat in the fridge – not on the bench top.
  • Many of the pathogens that cause illness grow at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C. Fridges should be set at 2oC to 4oC. Hot food should be very hot.
  • Separate and cover food. Keep raw meat and poultry covered and away from ready-to-eat foods, fruit and vegetables, preferably on the bottom shelf so they can’t drip on other food.
  • Cook minced meat and sausages right through until there is no pink in the middle. Pork and poultry juices should run clear.
  • When barbecuing, keep raw and cooked meat and poultry separate on the grill. Don’t put the cooked meat back on the plate used to carry the raw meat to the barbeque.
  • If taking food to a party, use an insulated container with plenty of ice to ensure cold foods stay chilled. If reheating, make sure it’s piping hot all the way through before serving.

Professor McMeekin says “In practical terms the tips mean that pizza left out of the fridge overnight is not a good breakfast. Over stacked fridges which are not cold enough and where food is not separated, cutting boards used for one food and then another without thorough washing and drying, dishcloths left in a heap on the sink, and unwashed hands are all to be avoided.”

Recognising that housework may not be a favourite activity for many young people, Professor McMeekin says the good news is that you don’t have to wipe up the dishes as leaving them to dry in the air is safest!

Media Contact: Lydia Buchtmann  0401 714 265