With summer fast approaching and warmer weather already here, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) recommends a few simple steps to reduce your chances of getting sick from food prepared at home.
MPI’s Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Donald Campbell says foodborne illness trends show that more people get sick from food over summer than at any other time of the year.
"Bacteria grow faster in the warm moist conditions of the summer months, so can be present in higher numbers than we're used to in raw foods.
"Over summer we are more likely to be eating raw foods like salads and seasonal summer fruits. We recommend washing all fruit and vegetables before eating them raw," says Dr Campbell.
We also tend to do more cooking or preparing of food outside at picnics, barbeques and on camping trips, which means foods might be out of the fridge for longer than usual.
"Delicious, nutritious food is one of the great things in life. There's nothing better than a fantastic meal with family and friends. But there's also nothing worse than that same food causing days of misery thanks to it being contaminated by harmful bugs (bacteria, viruses and other organisms that can cause illness)," he says.
Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of you, your family or friends having a nasty foodborne illness by following simple food safety steps:
- Begin with clean hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap and dry your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling all food, including fresh produce.
- Remember the 3Cs – Clean, Cook, Chill – to help keep harmful bugs at bay.
- Barbeque safely by precooking chicken, sausages and minced meat, then barbeque until meat is steaming hot (over 75 degrees Celsius) all the way through.
- Washing fresh produce under running water is an important part of ensuring your favourite fruits and veges are safe to consume.
- Many precut, bagged fresh produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package label indicates the contents have been pre-washed, you do not need to wash it again.
- Cooking destroys harmful bugs. Cooking some specific higher risk foods, like bean sprouts and frozen imported berries for instance, will help keep you safe. While some consumers wish to eat these products without cooking, they need to understand there is a risk in doing so.