24 December 2020

As the weather warms up in the run up to Christmas, NSW Health is warning people to take special care with food preparation, storage and serving over the holiday period.

This month, 66 cases of Salmonella food poisoning have been reported already said Dr Elaine Tennant, Co-Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health.

“Unfortunately, we see increases in the number of cases of Salmonella poisoning every Christmas, and it is usually due to food not being prepared and stored properly,” Dr Tennant said.

Careful food preparation and storage is the best way to avoid Salmonellosis. This means separating raw and cooked foods during preparation and avoiding eating any food containing raw or undercooked egg.

“Remember that the longer food is left out of the fridge, the more bacteria will multiply. If food that is normally refrigerated has been sitting out for over two hours, you should throw it out,” Dr Tennant added.

Helpful food safety tips include:

  • use different chopping boards, trays, utensils and plates when preparing raw foods, especially meat, and ready-to-eat food
  • thaw frozen food in the fridge, not on the bench as Salmonella bacteria love to grow between the temperatures of five and 60 degrees Celsius
  • wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating
  • don’t pour raw meat juices from marinades onto cooked food
  • wash hands immediately after handling raw foods and before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food
  • don’t prepare food for others if you’ve had symptoms of gastroenteritis until 48 hours after symptoms have passed.

NSW Food Authority CEO, Dr Lisa Szabo, said to reduce the risk of Salmonella poisoning, consumers and food retailers can use commercially produced products instead of homemade mayonnaise and sauces.

“It is also much safer to use commercially pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs in ready-to-eat products such as desserts and dressings,” Dr Szabo said.

“Businesses in NSW must comply with strict requirements around the use of raw eggs in foods, and the sale of eggs with dirty or cracked shells is prohibited.”

Symptoms of Salmonellosis include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and usually last for four to seven days.

“Most people recover from Salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but some people including infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems can develop a severe infection,” Dr Tennant said.

For further information refer to Salmonellosis.