The Food Safety Information Council today released a report card on Australia’s food safety record in the lead up to the United Nations’ Fourth World Food Safety Day to be held on 7 June 2022. This year’s theme, Safer Food – Better Health, stresses that production and consumption of safe food has immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet and the economy.
Council Chair, Cathy Moir, said the Council is pleased to play a part in educating consumers so we can help reduce the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.
‘This past 12 months has seen a mixed report card for Australian food safety and now we are out and about with relaxing public health measures required to control COVID-19 infections we need to make sure we are following basic food safety tips such as correct handwashing, cooking processes and refrigeration temperatures.
✔︎Less diagnosed salmonella. A study published in Communicable Disease Intelligence V46 showed a 27% reduction in reported salmonellosis cases in Australia in 2020 during the implementation of public health measure to control COVID-19 transmission compared with the 5 previous years. Much of this reduction could be due to restaurant and food business closures during the COVID-19 lockdowns, as a lot of food poisoning outbreaks are linked to food service. There were also fewer international travellers who may have acquired food poisoning overseas. People may have also been less likely to seek medical attention and provide a specimen for diagnosis. Additionally, there may have been impacts on laboratory testing capacity.
✔︎We are washing raw chicken less. A consumer survey that found 49% of Australian cooks were still taking a food poisoning risk by washing raw whole chicken before cooking. This is a risky practice as washing any raw poultry can spread bacteria to your hands, surfaces and other foods that may not be cooked. Washing is also unnecessary as cooking poultry to 75°C in the centre of a fillet or the thickest part of the thigh will kill any bacteria on surfaces. But we were pleased that rates of washing raw whole chicken has reduced from 60% to 49% since we last asked this question in 2011. The frequency cooks wash raw chicken pieces with skin on has also reduced from 52% to 43% and washing skinless pieces reduced from 41% to 40%.
✖︎Handwashing decreases The Council conducted an Omnipoll national survey for Global Handwashing Day in October 2021 that showed there was a 15% decrease in the number of times Australians washed or sanitised their hands a day, on average, since the same time last year. Participants were asked how often they washed their hands and used hand sanitiser on the previous day. While 1 in 6 people couldn’t recall how often, the others reported that, on average, they washed their hands 6.7 times a day (compared with 7.5 times a day the previous year) and sanitised them 3.3 times a day (compared with 3.9 times a day the previous year).
✖︎Need to close the gender gap. There was still a handwashing difference between genders with women saying they washed their hands, on average, 7.6 times a day and men only 5.9 times. Women sanitised their hands on average 3.4 times a day and men 3.2 times.
✖︎Stop picking or eating those wild mushrooms. Following floods and wet weather wild mushrooms have been springing up. There have been a number of cases of death cap mushroom poisoning including a young child in Victoria and 2 young children and a man in the ACT all of whom were hospitalised. We continue to advise not to pick or eat wild mushrooms and to clear and safely dispose of any mushrooms where children (and pets) might play.
✖︎Finally, a big fail for some of the social media giants such as Facebook and WeChat who continue to advertise unregulated food for sale. Don’t risk buying from an unregulated seller. Ask yourself the following:
- is the location you collect the food from a home address?
- does the vendor have proof they have a food licence?
- are they a registered business?
- is the price of the food too good to be true?
If in doubt don’t take the risk.
‘Whether you are a home cook, want to set up a food business or volunteer fundraiser and you’d like to learn more about food safety we have some easy to use and cost effective resources on our website at https://foodsafety.asn.au/topic/food-safety-training/,’ Ms Moir concluded.
Lydia Buchtmann, Food Safety Information Council, 0407 626 688 or firstname.lastname@example.org