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Health alert: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Queenslanders urged to stay food safe this Christmas

23 December 2020

In the lead up to Christmas festivities, Metro South Health is issuing a reminder to be aware of safe food handling practices.

Metro South Public Health Physician, Dr Kari Jarvinen said Queensland’s hot and humid December weather creates an ideal breeding ground for germs that spoil food and make people sick.

“Germs grow quickly on food, especially meat and poultry. If you’re preparing Christmas lunch or dinner it is important to wash your hands before and after handling food as they have the potential to cross contaminate other surfaces or food.”

Dr Jarvinen said preventative measures are important as some contaminated or off foods will not necessarily look, taste or smell any different to safe food but will nevertheless cause illness.

“Food poisoning can be particularly serious for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone in poor health,” he said, explaining the symptoms of food-borne illness may include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and headaches.

“Many people have mild symptoms and recover within a few days. But if symptoms persist for more than three days, are very severe, or are in infants or the elderly, you should seek medical advice from a general practitioner,” he said.

“You should see a doctor immediately if your symptoms include blood or mucus in the stool.”

Dr Jarvinen said anyone with diarrhoea and vomiting should stay home and drink plenty of fluids, and avoid preparing food for others given the cross-contamination risk.

Here are Dr Jarvinen’s top tips for safe food handling this Christmas:  

  • Avoid fridge overcrowding and keep the temperature at or below 5ºC. Only food labelled as requiring refrigeration needs to be in the fridge to remain safe.
  • Make sure you cook eggs, poultry and meat products right through—there should be no pink meat near the centre or bone and the juices should run clear to make sure any bacteria is killed. The thickest part of the meat should reach at least 75 ºC.
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Prepare foods as close as possible to eating time.
  • Avoid leaving perishable nibbles out for too long. For example, put out small serves of dips and replace every couple of hours.
  • Refrigerate leftovers immediately after a meal and use within two to three days.
  • Before preparing foods and after handling raw meat or chicken, wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap, and then dry properly.
  • Remember the 2/4 hour rule
    • Food held between 5°C and 60°C for less than 2 hours can be consumed or put back in the refrigerator for consumption later.
    • Food held between 5°C and 60°C for 2-4 hours can still be consumed, but can’t be refrigerated.
Last updated 23 December 2020
Last reviewed 23 December 2020

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