As the academic year begins young people urged to wash their hands and follow food safety tips (11 February 2024)

As students return to University, the Food Safety Information Council is urging them to follow simple food safety tips to avoid being one of the estimated 4.67 million cases of foodborne disease each year in Australia.

Cathy Moir, Council Chair, said that correct hand washing is an important public health issue that can reduce the risk of food poisoning as well as preventing the spread of viral diseases such as colds, flu, gastro caused by Norovirus as well as COVID19 infection.

‘Our recent Australia-wide handwashing study showed that young people had one of the poorest understanding of correct handwashing. Only 66% of people under 34 said they always washed their hands after going to the toilet and only 34% said they always washed their hands before handling food.

‘To reduce your risk of spreading bacteria and viruses around, always wash and dry your hands before handling, preparing and eating food. Wash hands particularly after touching raw meats and poultry, fish, shellfish,  eggs or unwashed vegetables. Always wash your hands after using the toilet, blowing your nose, touching any infected wounds or sores or touching your pet’.

‘To wash your hands correctly, wet your hands and rub them together well to build up a good lather with soap for at least 20 seconds, you can turn off the tap while doing this to save water. Don’t forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails and rinse well under running water. Then dry your hands thoroughly on a clean towel for at least 20 seconds. If no running water is available use alcohol gels or wipes, rubbing them all over your hands and allow your hands to air dry. Alcohol gel should not replace the need to wash soiled hands when soap and water is available because viruses like Norovirus are not destroyed by alcohol ‘wash’.

‘We have a YouTube video showing how to wash your hands correctly. We have also prepared a simple infographic which can be downloaded from here containing five simple tips, to ensure that you, and people you prepare food for, are protected from food poisoning:

  1. CLEAN – wash hands with soap and water before handling food, wash the dishes regularly and keep the kitchen clean
  2. CHILL – keep the fridge at 5°C or below and clean it out regularly, refrigerate any leftovers as soon as they’ve stopped steaming and freeze immediately or use them within 3 days
  3. COOK – use a thermometer and cook poultry, sausages or minced or stuffed meat dishes to 75°C in the centre, be aware of the risk of raw or minimally cooked egg dishes. Follow any cooking instructions on the food packaging.
  4. SEPARATE – prevent cross contamination, especially between raw meat or poultry and other foods that won’t be cooked like ready to eat desserts and salads
  5. DON’T COOK FOR OTHERS IF YOU HAVE GASTRO – you could make them sick too so ask someone else to cook or get a takeaway.

The Food Safety Information Council would like to thank their members Accord and OnSolution for sponsoring this research and educational material and our member Chef Narelle Bickford for creating the recipe.

Media contact:

Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688 or