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Public Take Heed of Cover Food Message

Media Statement

Thursday 22 January 2004

Public Take Heed of Cover Food Message

Thirty-two cases of food-borne illness have been reported to the Public Health Unit during this summer period, Health Protection Officer Theresa Husband said today.

“During this summer period 1 December 2003 to 20 January 2004, the Public Health Unit has been notified of 28 cases of campylobacter and four cases of salmonella.

“These diseases can often be associated with contaminated food as a result of inadequate food preparation and handling.”

Ms Husband said the number of possible food-borne illnesses reported for the region was slightly up compared with the same period last year when 30 illnesses were reported.

“However, when you take into account the warm temperatures being enjoyed in the Gisborne region this summer, overall the incidence of food-borne illness has been low.”

Ms Husband said safe food handling methods may have contributed to the relatively low figures.

“We were pleased at the attendance level of representatives from local Marae at the Tairawhiti Polytechnic Food Safety and Supervision course, and community involvement in a number of food safety promotion competitions has been steady.“

“This would indicate more people are becoming aware of the food contamination risks and how to reduce them.”

Ms Husband warned however, that the public could not afford to become complacent.

“Food-borne illness such as campylobacter and salmonella can be more than just a tummy upset and have on occasion resulted in death. More serious food-borne disease such as listeriosis, for example can cause spontaneous abortion.”

“There is still a lot of good weather ahead during February and March so everyone should continue to practice safe food covering techniques and refrigeration so food does not become contaminated or spoiled.”

Ms Husband said contamination can be caused by a number of things – flies, the juice of uncooked meat and poultry dripping onto ready to eat food, hair, and dirty hands.

“The list is endless but keeping food covered and chilled helps prevent that. The only time food should be uncovered is when you are eating or preparing it.”

Ms Husband said the local cover food campaign includes the Cover Kai Healthy Recipe Competition, which invites the public to submit summer recipes incorporating cover food tips. This competition closes January 31, 2004.

Entries can be sent to the Public Health Unit, PO Box 119 Gisborne, or dropped into entry boxes located at Pak N Save, Woolworths, H.B Williams Library, Gisborne District Council, Radio Ngati Porou and Te Runanga o Ngati Porou office.

Anyone wanting more information on food storage and handling guidelines can contact the Public Health Unit on (06) 867 9119, Gisborne District Council on (06) 867 2049 or visit www.foodsafe.org.nz.

ENDS

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