Food safety for summer celebrations

Warmer days mean plenty of outdoor dining – but don’t let food poisoning spoil your fun.

It’s time to dust off the barbecue and to start planning leisurely summer picnics with family and friends.

But the summer months also bring a rise in the number of food poisoning cases, says Lydia Buchtmann, of the Food Safety Information Council.

One of the most dangerous causes of food poisoning is listeria, caused by a bacteria found in foods like ready-to-eat seafood, pre-packaged salads, pate, ham, unpasteurised milk, soft-serve ice cream and soft cheeses such as brie, ricotta and feta.

Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, like diabetes or with suppressed immune systems, are at risk of listeria infection,” says Lydia.

“Listeria bacteria can be very dangerous for these groups and can even be fatal.”

How to prepare and store food safely during summer

Don’t cross-contaminate fresh or cooked food with raw meat or poultry: Use separate chopping boards and utensils, cover cooked and fresh food, and store them separately from raw food in the fridge.

Cook poultry well: Until a meat thermometer shows it has reached 75C in the thickest part.

Keep salads in the fridge: Take them out only when you are ready to eat, and return any leftovers to the fridge. “Cooked rice and pasta are also a food poisoning risk, so refrigerate pasta and rice salad, too,” says Lydia.

Avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes: This includes foods like raw egg mayonnaise or desserts.

Don’t leave food out for more than two hours before refrigerating: If it’s out for longer than that, throw it away, says the Australian Institute of Food Safety.

Use a cooler bag: When you shop, this will keep cold items safe until you get them home. Use an ice box, such as an esky, to keep food cool when outside.

When packing for a picnic: Keep cooked and uncooked foods separate.

food safety

If you get food poisoning …

In 2018, a listeria outbreak linked to rockmelons lead to six deaths and 26 people contracted hepatitis A from imported frozen pomegranates.

What are the signs of food poisoning and how do you manage it?

Typical symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea or vomiting.

Seek medical help if you have: frequent vomiting, blood in your vomit or stools, diarrhoea lasting more than three days, severe painful abdominal cramps, a temperature above 38.6C, dehydration, blurred vision, muscle weakness or a tingling sensation in your arms.

For mild cases of food poisoning suck on ice and keep up fluids and electrolytes – the minerals in our body that help it function.

Australian Food Safety Week is November 10 to 17.

Looking for some barbecue inspiration? Browse our Eat section for delicious dishes like these crowd-pleasing salmon burgers, Sally Obermeder’s fab fish fajitas or meat-free marinated tofu and sesame seed brochettes.

Written by Sarah Marinos.