Food safety tips over the summer holidays

24 December 2018

Take extra care when preparing and storing food during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

People eating from a food platter

With an estimated 4.1 million Australians getting food poisoning each year, of which 32,000 are hospitalised and more than 80 die, safe food handling and storage is essential.

While holiday functions make this an enjoyable time of year, good times can turn sour if food is not handled correctly in the warm weather.

The rate of illnesses such as gastroenteritis often increases over summer because warmer temperatures permit more rapid bacterial growth in foods if they are left out of the fridge.

People can also reduce their chances of getting a food-borne illness by taking simple measures when preparing and storing food.

Food poisoning symptoms can take days to develop. Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating contaminated food and needs to seek medical care should consult their doctor as soon as possible. Putting together a list of food eaten in the previous 48 hours is also recommended.

Ten food safety tips include:

  1. don't leave leftovers out on the bench for longer than two hours
  2. throw out foods that have been left out of the fridge for more than four hours
  3. the safest way to defrost food is in the fridge or the microwave
  4. use your esky with ice or ice bricks to keep meats and other foods cold at barbecues and picnics
  5. wash hands with soap and warm water and dry hands thoroughly before handling food and immediately after handling raw meat
  6. avoid cross contamination by preparing and storing raw meats separately from cooked and ready-to-eat foods
  7. use separate cutting boards and knives for each type of food, for example raw meat, fish, vegetables and cooked foods.
  8. do not store food too long, even in the fridge. Keep for a maximum of 3 days
  9. keep perishable foods hot (above 60 °C) or cold (below 5 °C)
  10. stick to the ‘use by’ date and storage instructions on the packet, smell or taste are not reliable warning signs.

Read our food safety myths.