Fend off food poisoning this holiday period with these 10 tips from WSLHD’s Public Health Unit

Western Sydney residents are urged to make food safety a priority this summer, particularly as the weather heats up.

Dr Conrad Moreira from Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Public Health Unit has stressed the importance of storing food properly, especially when dining with family and friends.

“Food poisoning is an unpleasant experience and can be more severe in children, the elderly and in people with weakened immune systems,” Dr Moreira said.

No matter where food comes from, the last link in the food safety chain is safe storage and preparation at home. Storing food safely is very important to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Dr Conrad Moreira, WSLHD Public Health Unit

“These bacteria may be in the food itself, or they can be also introduced by contamination from unclean hands or utensils used during preparation or serving, or from insects such as flies attracted to uncovered food left out of the fridge.

“Bacteria grow more easily in warm, moist conditions. Keeping the fridge temperature below 5 degrees C stops bacteria from growing and is very important in keeping food safe to eat.

Dr Moreira also recommends doing a quick audit of how you are storing food in your fridge. Since many different food items are often stacked inside during the Christmas period, there is an increased risk of contamination.

To prevent contamination (for example, from meat juices dripping into salads) he suggests making sure that food items are properly covered in the fridge. Non-perishable dry goods outside the fridge, such as pasta and rice, should be stored in properly sealed containers to avoid contamination by flies, cockroaches and mice.

Dr Moreira recommends taking a few simple steps to keep food safe can make all the difference:

  • Wash and dry your hands before preparing or serving food.
  • Keep food preparation areas clean and dry.
  • Wash and dry salad leaves, vegetables and fresh fruit before cutting and serving.
  • Use a different knife and chopping board for raw and cooked food.
  • Don’t prepare or serve food to others if you are unwell with gastro symptoms.
  • Keep your fridge temperature below 5 degrees C. This stops bacteria from growing in food.
  • Don’t leave food that needs to be refrigerated out on the table for more than four hours. If it hasn’t been eaten by then, throw it away. This is even more important at picnics or outdoor BBQs in warm weather.
  • Cover all food stored in the fridge or freezer so it doesn’t get contaminated.
  • Always reheat food until it’s steaming hot before serving.
  • Always check the use-by label. Throw away food that is out of date.

Sharing a meal at a BBQ or picnic during the festive season is a great way to enjoy the company of family and friends, but it’s important to remember that serving food outdoors also gives bacteria that causes food poisoning the chance to grow in dishes like salads, coleslaw, cold meats and seafood, dips and fruit salads.

Keeping food at the correct temperature stops the growth of bacteria that cause food poisoning – and bacteria grow more easily when food is left out of the fridge, and especially in warm, summer weather.

“Don’t let food poisoning ruin the fun – be food safe so everyone has happy memories of eating together during the festive season.”

More information on keeping food safe and eating safely during Summer is available from the NSW Food Authority: