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Food safety experts support hepatitis comments

Januaru 2006

Food safety experts support hepatitis and bird flu comments

Both the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) and New Zealand Foodsafe Partnership support reported comments by Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Mel Brieseman that poor hand hygiene among many New Zealanders is a major cause of preventable illness.

"Studies have shown that a high proportion of Kiwis don't wash their hands after using the toilet," says Dr Greg Simmons, chair of the New Zealand Foodsafe Partnership. "There is also strong anecdotal evidence that hand washing standards are just as poor during food preparation in the home, with a great deal of cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods."

Dr Roger Cook, microbiologist with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, says that good hand washing is vital, as are clean cloths, towels, utensils and surfaces.

"Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens are with us all the time but the body generally has the defences to deal with them. The problem is with letting bacteria grow to numbers big enough to overwhelm the body's defences, or to produce high enough levels of toxins to have an impact. While proper cooking will kill almost all pathogens, people need to be aware that they will still be there on hands, kitchen cloths, tea towels, chopping boards, knives and so on. It's when they're transferred from there to food that's ready-to-eat, or directly to mouths, eyes or noses that problems begin."

Greg Simmons agrees, and suggests a simple, effective and quick solution.

"Follow the 4Cs and the 20+20 rule, and you'll drastically reduce the risk of picking up – or transmitting to friends and family – not just foodborne illnesses but many person-to-person transmitted diseases as well."

The 4Cs, which apply to food handling, are Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill. The 20+20 rule is a reminder about proper hand washing and drying. Stickers, posters and brochures with more information on both the 4Cs and the 20 + 20 rule are available from many doctors, local Public Health Units, or from NZFSA on 0800 NZFSA1 (0800 693 721), or online at

The 4Cs

Clean hands (wash and dry them) before handling food. Clean utensils and scrub chopping boards between preparing raw and cooked food.

Cook minced meat and sausages thoroughly (meat should not be pink) and cook poultry until juices run clear. Reheat leftovers 'til steaming hot throughout.

Cover food. The only time food should be uncovered is when you're eating it.

Chill food. Keep raw and cooked food separate in the fridge. Use a chilly bin and frozen pad outside to keep food cool.

The 20+20 rule

Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Dry your hands for 20 seconds with a clean dry towel or paper towel.


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