The Food Safety Information Council today released its annual report card on Australia’s food safety record in the lead up to the United Nations’ Fifth World Food Safety Day to be held on 7 June 2023. This year’s theme ‘Food standards save lives’ will draw attention to food standards.
Council Chair, Cathy Moir, said Food standards help keep the Australian community safe and ensure that Australia continues to have a well-deserved reputation for a safe and high-quality food supply.
‘Our role at the Food Safety Information Council is to educate consumers so we can help reduce the estimated 4.67 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 47,900 hospitalisations, 38 deaths and a cost to the economy of $2.1 billion. Each year we conduct consumer research to see how Aussies are tracking and here is our Food Safety report card for the last 12 months:
✔︎Meat thermometer ownership improving. One in three surveyed (29%) have a meat thermometer in their household, that is a 4% increase in 10 years since we commenced a purchase and use a meat thermometer campaign. 14% have a meat thermometer in their household and have used it in the past month (it was 11% in 2012) and 23% have a meat thermometer in their household and have used it in the past year (it was 20% in 2012). Using a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure you have cooked riskier foods like poultry and minced meat and sausages to 75°C in the centre.
✖︎Raw and rare meat consumption. In the past 6 months, 28% surveyed said they have eaten raw meat (beef, pork, lamb, kangaroo and offal) and 33% said they have eaten rare meat. Younger people aged 18-34 are more likely to eat raw or rare meat with almost half (45%) have eaten some raw red meat in the past 6 months and half (50%) have eaten some rare red meat in the past 6 months. As a comparison, among the 65+, 21% have eaten some rare red meat in the past 6 months. Eating raw or rare meat is a risk for both food poisoning and parasite infection such as Toxoplasmosis. Cooking red meat steaks to a minimum 65°C (medium rare) and leaving it to stand for 3 minutes reduces that risk. Minced red meats are different and should be cooked to 75°C.
✖︎Handwashing decreases. An Omnipoll national survey for Global Handwashing Day in October 2022 that showed that 82% of Australians say they always wash their hands after going to the toilet (down from 83% the previous year) and 53% admit they always wash hands before touching food (down from 58% the previous year). Handwashing is particularly important in preventing the gastro causing Norovirus infection which can only be stopped by handwashing as hand sanitiser is not effective.
✖︎Need to close the gender gap. The hand washing research once again showed gender differences as men were less likely than women to always wash their hands after going to the toilet (80% of men versus 84% of women) and before touching food (52% of men versus 62% of women). Young people were less likely than older age groups to always wash their hands after going to the toilet (74% under 34 years versus 86% over 50 years) and before touching food (51% under 34 versus 58% over 50). Poor handwashing knowledge among young people is also a concern as they often become professional food handlers.
✖︎Stop picking or eating those wild mushrooms. In 2022 the NSW Poisons Information Centre (which takes calls from NSW, ACT and Tasmania and afterhours calls nationally) received 382 calls regarding mushroom poisoning. Of these, 159 were from people ingesting wild mushrooms intentionally, either foraging for food or recreationally. These calls also included 196 mushroom exposures in children (under 15 years). While the total number of a calls were down from 549 calls during 2020 they are still far too many. The poison in one deathcap mushroom, if eaten, is enough to kill a healthy adult and they are difficult to distinguish from other edible mushrooms. Also clear any mushrooms from your garden and places children may play.
✖︎Finally, get your food safety advice from reputable sources rather than online influencers who have recently been promoting risky activity such as eating raw liver and dumpster diving. One dumpster diver scavenges food for the disadvantaged who are at serious risk of illness. Instead of rummaging around garbage bins, support food rescue charities such as Ozharvest, Second Bite and Foodbank.
‘Whether you are a home cook, want to set up a food business or volunteer fundraiser, or you’d like to learn more about food safety we have recently updated our website which is full of easy to access food safety information and you may also wish to take part in our work and become a member. Find out more at www.foodsafety.asn.au ,’ Ms Moir concluded.
Media contact: Assoc Professor Julian Cox, Food Safety Information Council Scientific Director, 0468 989 180 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to thank our members SA Health, ACCORD and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation for making charitable donations to fund this research. The research was conducted nationally by Omnipoll online in August and September 2022, among a sample of 1254 people aged 18 years and over. To reflect the overall population distribution, results were post-weighted to Australian Bureau of Statistics data (Census 2016) on age, gender, area and highest level of education completed (note Census 2021 data was not available to post-weight until October 2022)