The Victorian government is urging Victorians to handle food safely and hygienically this Christmas to make sure celebrations aren’t spoilt by food-borne illnesses. Minister for Health Jill Hennessy issued a food safety warning today, following an increase in listeriosis cases in recent weeks. There have been seven cases reported in the last three weeks and 25 so far this year. The recent cases are not linked but are a timely reminder for pregnant women who are at particular risk from diseases such as listeriosis, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
“Food-borne illnesses typically increase during the summer months, when bacteria can multiply quickly. With a recent rise in listeriosis cases, it’s particularly important pregnant women take extra precautions this Christmas” stated Ms Hennesy.
“Preventing food poisoning can be as simple as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and making sure food is prepared and stored safely – if you’re sick, avoid parties and preparing food for at least 24 hours.”, she added.
Handling food appropriately to avoid food poisoning
Many of the high risk foods for pregnant women are popular choices during the festive season. Pregnant women should remain vigilant and avoid eating salads prepared well in advance of consumption, cold seafood and cold deli meats, soft cheeses, soft-serve ice cream, dips and any unpasteurised dairy products. Notifications of other infections like salmonella are also higher over summer. The number of salmonellosis cases in the six months to March 2016 was 31 per cent higher than in the colder months, between April and September.
Food poisoning can cause vomiting and diarrhoea and may be particularly serious for children, older people and people with conditions that weaken their immune systems. Food-borne illness can be prevented and with a hot Christmas Day expected on Sunday, it’s important to take extra care to prepare meals safely, inside and outside the home.
There are simple steps everyone can follow to protect their loved ones against the risk of food-borne diseases:
• Wash your hands with soap and water before handling food
• Keep your utensils, cutting boards, dishes and containers clean and dry
• Store food at the correct temperatures. Cold food should be stored at less than 5 degrees Celsius
• Cook food thoroughly and if in doubt throw it out
• Separate raw and cooked foods
• Use different utensils, cutting boards and containers for raw and ready-to-eat food
• Check your fridge and freezer temperatures
• Keep salads, spreads, dips and other perishable products in the fridge or a cooler until needed
• Rinse all fruit and vegetables in clean water