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It’s easy to spoil your holiday with food hazards

It’s easy to spoil your holiday with food hazards

23 December 2008

A recent outbreak of Salmonella that appears linked to flour is a reminder that all foods can carry hazards, says the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

“In these days of packaged convenience it’s easy to forget that raw foods are not sterile,” says Dr Donald Campbell, NZFSA Principal Adviser (Public Health). “Meat, fruit, vegetables and milk are all natural products that come from farms and fields. Any of them can carry bacteria and viruses that cause illness. Good food handling practices reduce this risk or kill these organisms. Pathogens don’t survive high temperatures so cooking is usually important.

“Most people know to cook meat, particularly poultry, thoroughly. Some people know that fresh fruit and vegetables should be washed to help remove soil and other deposits that might have harmful pathogens. Milk is pasteurised to make milk and dairy products much safer. Flour and other raw baking ingredients have not been treated to kill disease causing organisms.

“With holiday baking well underway, many people remain hazy about the dangers of licking the cake batter when baking. Eating uncooked flour in batter or home-made play-dough is one of the possible activities associated with the latest Salmonella outbreak. Cooking will kill the bacteria and make home baked goods safe to eat.

Dr Campbell says that food safety is a farm-to-fork responsibility. “Even the safest foods can be cross-contaminated by poor food handling.

“Some of the main hazards are a result of the more casual dining we do in summer. Barbecues and picnics are summer dining favourites but the hazy laid back summertime lifestyle can extend to lazy, crazy attitudes to food handling. Warmer temperatures and outdoor eating can increase the risks, so NZFSA is reminding people of some safe summer dining tips.

“Always wash your hands well and then dry them thoroughly before touching food. The temperature in your fridge should be between 2-4°C. Frequent opening should be avoided, and don’t overload the fridge with drinks; store them in a chilly bin or a dedicated drinks fridge instead.

“Wash fruit and vegetables before putting them in salads and sandwiches. Salads and pick-your-own berries are summer staples, but can carry a range of bugs causing a variety of serious illnesses.

“Ensure that sausages, minced meat and poultry are well cooked. When barbecuing it pays to pre-cook these meats first, then cook them and check with a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, make sure they’re steaming hot all the way through. Don’t mix the juices of raw and cooked meats. Dishes or utensils used for raw meat must be washed thoroughly before they can be used for cooked meat, and never use marinade that has contained raw meat on cooked meat. Clean chopping boards that have been used for raw meats with hot, soapy water before using to prepare salads.

“Avoid shellfish that haven’t opened properly on cooking, or which look or smell suspicious, and don’t eat raw shellfish if you have low immunity. This includes pregnant women and very young children, the frail elderly, and anyone who has an illness or surgical treatment which has compromised their immunity.

“Leftovers should be quickly cooled, covered and refrigerated as soon as possible, then eaten within two days of being cooked. Reheated leftovers should be steaming hot. Don’t leave them sitting on the picnic table – even if in the shade – while everyone has a siesta before re-serving them hours later for dinner.”

ENDS

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