21 December 2021

As summer heats up and preparations begin for the festive season, NSW Health is urging residents to avoid Salmonella food poisoning by taking simple measures to ensure food stays safe.

Keira Glasgow, NSW Health Acting Director of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases Branch, said the warmer weather created the perfect environment for salmonella to grow.

“Each year around Christmas we see a number of hospital presentations due to acute salmonellosis caused by food poisoning, but this can be avoided through careful food preparation and storage,” she said.

“Most people know the most common causes of salmonellosis outbreaks, which are from eating food containing raw or undercooked eggs and not carefully separating raw food from cooked food, especially chicken and poultry.

“But we frequently see people unwell because they have consumed salads that have not been safely washed during preparation, or food that has been left out of the fridge for far too long in the heat.”

Ms Glasgow said the longer food was left out of the fridge, the faster bacteria grows and multiplies.

“If food that is normally refrigerated has been sitting out for more than two hours, it should be thrown out,” Ms Glasgow said.

“This is particularly important over Christmas when the weather is warm and grazing on food over a number of hours throughout the day is common.”

Symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can last for four to seven days.
Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking plenty of fluids, however those who are immunocompromised, infants and the elderly can experience worsened symptoms and risk developing a more serious infection.

Helpful food safety tips

  • 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
  • Follow the correct cooking instructions on the package, and adjust for the power of your appliance
  • 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.

For further information refer to the NSW Health Salmonellosis fact sheet.

Video available for download: Salmonella and cooked foods - NSW Health.