Avoid salmonella food poisoning this Christmas

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As Christmas gets underway amid a heatwave, NSW Health is warning people to avoid Salmonella food poisoning, with 168 cases already reported this month.

Ms Keira Glasgow, NSW Health Manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases, said careful food preparation and storage is the best way to avoid salmonellosis.

“Over every Christmas break we see outbreaks of Salmonella food poisoning, which are usually due to food not being prepared and stored properly,” Ms Glasgow said.

“The most common causes of salmonellosis outbreaks are eating food containing raw or undercooked eggs and not carefully separating raw food from cooked food.

“The longer food is left out of the fridge, the more bacteria will multiply. If food that is normally refrigerated has been sitting out for over two hours, you should throw it out.”

Helpful food safety tips include:

  • Use different chopping boards, trays, utensils and plates when preparing raw foods, especially meat, and ready to eat food
  • Thaw frozen food in the fridge, not on the bench as Salmonella bacteria love to grow between the temperatures of five and 60 degrees Celsius
  • Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating
  • Don’t pour raw meat juices from marinades onto cooked food
  • Wash hands immediately after handling raw foods and before handling cooked or ready-to-eat food
  • Don’t prepare food for others if you’ve had symptoms of gastroenteritis until 48 hours after symptoms have passed.

NSW Food Authority CEO, Dr Lisa Szabo, said to reduce the risk of Salmonella poisoning, consumers and food retailers can use commercially produced products instead of handmade mayonnaise and sauces.

“It is also much safer to use commercially pasteurised eggs rather than raw eggs in ready-to-eat products such as desserts and dressings,” Dr Szabo said.

“Businesses in NSW must comply with strict requirements around the use of raw eggs in foods, and the sale of eggs with dirty or cracked shells is prohibited.”

Symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and usually last for four to seven days.

“Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but some people including infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems can develop a severe infection,” Ms Glasgow said.

For further information click on the NSW Health Salmonellosis fact sheet.