Best kitchen hygiene tips for food safety

Food poisoning impacts millions of Australians each year – and it can be serious. Find out which foods pose the biggest risk and how to avoid becoming ill.

Meat, poultry and eggs are a staple on Aussie plates, yet these foods pose some of the biggest risks when it comes to food safety.

Food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses or toxins in the food we eat.

With Australian Food Safety Week being held November 12-19, it’s worth noting an estimated 4.67 million Australians get food poisoning each year.

Foods at risk of causing poisoning

Poultry, raw meat, eggs, and leafy green vegetables can contain bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, and e.coli that can cause food poisoning.

Fruits and berries can also pose a risk as bacteria such as listeria and salmonella can grow on the skins.

Food Safety Information Council spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann says the way food is stored, handled and cooked can stop the growth of bacteria that can make you sick.

Here are experts’ top food safety tips:

Ensure meat is thoroughly cooked

Minced meat and poultry should be cooked all the way through.

“Cooking them rare isn’t quite enough to kill any bacteria or parasites that might be in it,” Lydia says.

She recommends using a meat thermometer to ensure meat is cooked safely.

Safe meat temperatures:

  • Poultry, mince, sausages: 75C
  • Whole meat pieces: 63C (medium rare). Rest 3-5 minutes
  • Fish fillets: 63C

Don’t eat raw eggs

“It’s very likely bacteria on the outside of the shell will get on the inside and make you sick,” Lydia says.

Leftover safety

Wait, Lydia says suggests.

Don’t store leftovers for more than two or three days in the fridge, Lydia cautions.

If you’re planning to freeze, she recommends waiting for food to stop steaming before dividing into portions and freeze immediately.

Defrost frozen food in the fridge or use your microwave defrost option.

Smart food storage

Food scientist Dr Vincent Candrawinata recommends allowing cooked meat to cool before storing in plastic containers or covering with cling wrap and refrigerating.

“It’s normally when the temperature is elevated or food is of very high fat content that it can become dangerous,” Dr Candrawinata says.

He says heating high fat foods in plastic in the microwave can also pose risks of the plastic leaching into food.

Check your plastic containers are BPA free, and use glass containers, rather than plastic, he recommends.

Practise good food hygiene

Lydia recommends the following food-safe habits:

  • Hand washing before and after handling raw meat, chicken or eggs
  • Don’t wash meat/poultry, it risks spreading bacteria
  • Store meat/poultry away from foods in the fridge that don’t require further cooking
  • Cover raw meat/poultry and store at bottom of fridge to avoid it dripping
  • Keep chopping boards for raw meat and other foods separate
  • Keep fridge at 5C or less

Written by Melissa Iaria.