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A holiday season food quiz --- Annette King

A holiday season food quiz --- OpEd article

By Food Safety Minister Annette King

I don’t want to be a holiday grinch, but for many New Zealanders, these holidays could well include a hearty dose of salmonella with their barbecue, or a drizzling of campylobacter with their picnic?

Or what about a nice case of scombroid fish poisoning from that lovely catch of kahawai you hauled home the other day?

If you think foodborne illness couldn’t happen to you, think again. Every year it happens to 119,000 New Zealanders, and over half of those cases are a result of bad food handling practices in the home.

Pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella and Campylobacter can quickly ruin your summer holiday because all they need is warmth, moisture and time to multiply to dangerous levels on your food.

To test your food safety knowledge, particularly your familiarity with the 4cs (clean, cook, cover, chill), try your hand at this fun quiz. The quiz is a recipe for a happy, contented stomach over the holiday season.

1. You’ve been slaving over a BBQ and your guests are hungry. You’re about to serve up the first burgers but notice they’re still pink in the middle. Do you:

a) Serve them anyway. Your guests won’t notice as they’re so hungry.

b) Give them to the dog.

c) Continue cooking until the burgers are piping hot and the juices run clear.

Answer: C. Guests would prefer another handful of peanuts to foodborne illness.

2. The barbecue is going well and the guests are calling for more food. You want to start cooking the chicken but there’s no room on the grill. Do you:

a) Squash chicken pieces next to burgers that are ready to eat as it’ll all get cooked in the end.

b) Wait until existing food has been cooked through and taken off the barbecue before adding any more raw meat.

c) Shout “grub’s up” and just hope your guests won’t mind a little raw chicken juice with their burger.

Answer: B. Cross-contamination of cooked and ready-to-eat or raw foods is a sure pathway for food poisoning. Don’t let raw meat sit next to cooked – or partially cooked – meat on the barbecue.

3. The barbecue’s gone well and you want to bring out your fantastic trifle. You open the fridge to find raw chicken has been stored on the shelf above the trifle. It’s likely that juices from the meat may have dripped on your dessert. Do you:

a) Make a note to add more sherry to each helping as alcohol kills bugs.

b) Take the trifle out of the fridge and store it on the bench instead.

c) Throw the trifle away and opt for the ice cream in the deep freeze.

Answer: C. Raw meat should always be stored covered and on a plate to prevent drips, and preferably on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

4. You’ve been to the supermarket and stocked up for the weekend, but it’s a nice day and on your way back you pass your favourite cafe. Do you:

a) Head home first to pack away all your chilled or frozen foods and remember to take a chilly bin when you next go to the supermarket.

b) Leave the food in the car – you’re only going to have a quick latte.

c) Find a shady place to park so you can take as long as you like.

Answer: A. If your trip home is likely to take any more than 30 minutes, pack chilled and frozen purchases in a chilly bag or bin with an icepack. A hot car provides perfect conditions for growth of bacteria.

5. The day looks perfect for a picnic. Do you:

a) Throw food in a carrier bag and round up the kids as you want to get out and enjoy the day as soon as you can.

b) Prepare the dishes, cover and store them in your fridge until you’re about to leave, then transfer the food and a couple of icepacks to a chilly bin.

c) Stack the food on the kitchen bench while you go to find the suntan lotion.

Answer: B. Wait until you set off before moving your food from fridge to chilly bin. Use separate bags or bins for hot and cold dishes.

6. You arrive at your picnic spot and arrange the dishes on the fold-out table. Then someone suggests a quick swim. Do you:

a) Whip out your towel shouting, “last one in the water’s a sissy”.

b) Make a point of covering any perishable foods then head for the waves.

c) Eat first and swim later.

Answer: C. Bacteria needs warmth, moisture and time to grow and multiply to dangerous levels. Keep your picnic food in the chilly bin until you’re ready to eat and once you’ve got it out, keep it covered.

7. You’ve been gathering shellfish and landed quite a catch. Now you’ve got to get it back to the bach. Do you:

a) Rustle up a couple of old plastic bags from the car boot and fill them to bursting point.

b) Put them in a clean chilly bin and throw in a couple of icepacks for good measure – you’ve quite a drive and you want them to stay fresh.

c) Leave them to dry off naturally in the sun while you clean up the boat.

Answer: B. Use a clean chilly bin with fresh, clean icepacks.Shellfish must be kept wet at a steady temperature of 5-7°C. Discard any shellfish that are dead and gaping (ie: they won’t close by themselves when tapped).

Have a great foodsafe summer, and for more information on food safety, visit the New Zealand Food Safety Authority website:, or The Foodsafe Partnership website at


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