Food bacteria cases double in a year

SAFETY FIRST: The council's environmental health officer Aaron Price with the food safety display at the Port Lincoln Library.
SAFETY FIRST: The council's environmental health officer Aaron Price with the food safety display at the Port Lincoln Library.

CASES of campylobacter – a bacteria which commonly causes gastroenteritis or gastro – have doubled in Port Lincoln in the past 12-months to 34 cases. 

As part of Food Safety Week which runs from November 11 to 18 the Port Lincoln City Council is asking residents to buy and use a food thermometer to help cook food correctly. 

The council’s environmental health officer Aaron Price said a recent Food Safety Information Council survey found 75 per cent of Australians surveyed reported there was not a food thermometer in their house and only 44 per cent of those with a thermometer reported using it the previous month.

There is an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and one million visits to doctors.

Mr Price said there were escalating rates of campylobacter and salmonella infection that were particularly linked to poorly cooked poultry and egg dishes.

Port Lincoln mayor Bruce Green said along with the increase in campylobacter cases there had also been 13 cases of salmonella infection.

“To help reduce this number, we are encouraging people to pick up a food thermometer from their local retail store and learn how to use it properly.”

“This will not only ensure safer food but you will also be able to cook the perfect piece of meat,” Mr Green said. 

Mr Price said there were four simple tips to remember when using a food thermometer and they were to follow any instructions on the thermometer’s packaging; to place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food and as close to the centre as possible away from bone, fat or gristle; to check the temperature toward the end of cooking but before the meat is done and to clean the stem of the thermometer before and after each use. 

A list of the correct cooking temperatures and a food safety quiz can be found on the Food Safety Information Council website foodsafety.asn.au

Top 10 food temperature tips

  1. If perishable food isn’t being kept cold in eskies or chiller bags, make the trip from supermarket to home a short one.
  2. Check your refrigerator is working properly and the food inside is under 5C
  3. Store ready to eat items (like those that won't be cooked before consumption) on the top shelves in the fridge or in separate compartments
  4. Plan ahead and defrost frozen items in the fridge
  5. Cook raw poultry and other meats thoroughly (above 75C core temperature)
  6. Reheat food only once and if holding it hot keep it above 60C
  7. Apply the two and four hour rule. If food usually requiring refrigeration has been out for less than two hours, then, providing it has not been contaminated, it can be returned to the fridge. If it's been out for longer than two hours, it can't go back and should be eaten asap. At the four hour mark, the food should be discarded.
  8. Don't completely fill your fridge, circulation of the cold air is important
  9. Try to avoid handling food intended for other family members if you have been unwell
  10. Seek medical attention if you believe you have food poisoning and remember, the last meal consumed is not necessarily the cause of a food poisoning case.