How to prevent food poisoning
Every year, around 200,000 New Zealanders get food poisoning. About half of these cases occur in homes just like yours. Food poisoning is caused by harmful germs in or on the food we eat. Campylobacter, Salmonella and Yersinia are the most common causes. You can help keep your family from getting sick by following the advice on this page.
Video – Food safety at home (1:00)
Transcript - show/hide
A case folder is on a table with the words 'Food Safety at Home' written on it under a logo of New Zealand Food Safety. A photograph of mussels is also clipped to the folder.
Investigator 1 says: "Another day, another crime scene." Various food items are shown as a magnifying glass inspects each one: Mussels on a chopping board, leftovers in the fridge and a container of leftover pasta with mould growing on it.
Investigator 2 says: 'Food safety never sleeps.'
Mussels sit on a chopping board.
Investigator 2 says: "Well well well, what do we have here?."
Investigator 1's hand goes to place a cucumber next to the mussels on the chopping board but Investigator 2's hand stops him and moves his hand away.
Three snapshots quickly flash on the screen: raw chicken, mussels then salad.
Investigator 2 says: "Never place raw meat, seafood or salad, on the same chopping board. Always use a separate board for each." The mussels, salad and chicken are now separated on three individual chopping boards.
Investigator 1's hand gives Investigator 2's hand a fist bump.
A container of leftovers sits on a shelf in the fridge.
Investigator 2 says: "If you're eyeing up a plate of leftovers -"
Investigator 1's hands takes the leftovers out of the fridge, puts it into the microwave and says: "Mhmm leftovers."
Investigator 2 continues: 'reheat them properly, warm doesn't kill bacteria. Hot does.' Investigator 1's hands removes the hot, steaming leftovers from the microwave. Investigator 2 says: "And Agent K - don't reheat them again tomorrow."
A second container of leftover potato salad sits on a different shelf in the fridge.
Investigator 2 says: "Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours and always eat leftovers within two days."
Investigator 2's hand holds up a stopwatch and hits the start button. He says: "Start the Clock."
Investigator 1's hands lift up a container of leftovers. The lid is removed, revealing mould on pasta as he says: "Can you see that?" Investigator 2 says: "If in doubt, chuck it out."
Investigator 1's hands scoops the leftovers out into the rubbish bin.
Investigator 1 says: "Is it that time?"
Investigator 2 points to the kitchen sink and gives a thumbs up. The investigators wash their hands thoroughly with water and soap.
Investigator 2 says: "Wash your hands regularly when handling, cooking or eating food. Use hot soapy water and dry well." The investigators each dry their hands with a clean towel.
Investigator 2 wipes down the tabletop with a cleaning cloth and removes a crime scene number. He says: "Remember. Food safety when preparing, cooking and storing food is all about keeping yourself and others safe".
Investigator 1 and Investigator 2 give each other a secret handshake. New Zealand Food Safety logo appears with the caption: 'Stay Food Safe at Home'.
Preparing, cooking, storing, and transporting food
The following tips will help prevent your family getting food poisoning.
- Wash your hands with soap and dry well before handling, cooking, and eating food.
- Wash chopping boards and kitchen tools in hot, soapy water and dry well after using with raw meat or seafood.
- Use different chopping boards for raw meat, seafood, and ready-to-eat foods like salads and cheese.
- Don't wash chicken or raw meat. Washing will spread bacteria in your kitchen and may contaminate other food.
- Wash your hands after handling eggs.
- Keep surfaces and kitchen utensils clean and dry before and after handling eggs.
- Use clean eggs free from dirt, faecal matter, and cracks.
- Ensure poultry, pork, processed and minced meat is cooked right through to kill harmful bacteria. Chicken and sausage juices should run clear and the meat should not be pink in the middle.
- Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures at the middle of the thickest part (where the temperature should be 75°C or more).
- Defrost frozen foods thoroughly so they cook properly in the middle. Or, follow cooking instructions on labels or packaging that say you can cook the food directly from frozen.
- Use one set of utensils for raw meat and chicken, and another set for cooked food. Put cooked items on a clean plate, not on the one that's been used for raw ingredients.
- Check the use-by dates on food packaging. Don't buy, eat or drink once this date has passed.
- If food is labelled with a best-before date, it's all right to eat the food after the date has passed, as long as the food is not showing signs that it's gone 'off'. Use your sense of smell, and look for signs of decay or mould. If in doubt, chuck it out.
- Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within 2 hours – no food should be left at room temperature longer than that.
- Keep eggs in the fridge after purchase.
- Cool hot foods for up to 30 minutes in room temperature before refrigerating to prevent raising the temperature in the fridge.
- Cool large portions of hot food by dividing into smaller containers (this helps the food to cool faster), then cover, and refrigerate.
- When eating outdoors, keep chilled foods (like salads) in a chilly bag or bin with ice packs until needed.
- Eat leftovers within 2 days.
- When in doubt, chuck it out.
STORING FOOD IN YOUR FRIDGE
Most harmful bacteria cannot grow at low refrigeration temperatures. Set your fridge temperature between 2°C and 5°C and follow these tips.
- Keep raw and cooked foods separate in the fridge.
- Refrigerate raw meat on the bottom shelf, and keep it separate from cooked or other ready-to-eat foods.
- Keep cooked food on a higher shelf than raw meat or chicken. This will prevent raw meat and chicken juices from dripping onto food that is ready-to-eat.
- Keep your fridge clean, and don't overfill it. This can prevent cold air from circulating properly, which can affect the temperature of food inside the fridge.
- Keep a chilly bag or bin in your car to transport chilled or frozen foods, and transfer them to the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.
- Use ice packs if you have long travel times after shopping or won’t be going home straight away.
Other food safety tips
Refer to other pages for more tips to help you make sure your food is safe (it won’t make you sick) and suitable (the ingredients and condition are what you expect them to be).
How to handle raw meat safely and avoid cross-contamination
Shopping with reusable bags and containers
Washing your hands before handling food
Food safety during pregnancy
When you're pregnant, your levels of immunity are lower than usual, so you're more at risk of getting diseases carried by food.
Find out how to prepare food safely during pregnancy
Food safety for people with low immunity
People with low immunity can be at higher risk of getting food poisoning. It can also be more dangerous for them. We’ve got advice on this.
Get food safety advice for people with low immunity
Symptoms of food poisoning
Common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- nausea or vomiting
- diarrhoea (which can be bloody)
- allergic reactions
- stomach cramps or pains
- fever or chills
- muscle or joint aches.
Symptoms may show up in as little as 20 minutes, or they could take several weeks.
If you or your family have any of these symptoms, contact a doctor.
Find out more about symptoms and causes of food poisoning
Who to contact
If you have questions about food safety at home, email firstname.lastname@example.org