FOOD ADVICE: Take care this summer to avoid or cook the following foods.
FOOD ADVICE: Take care this summer to avoid or cook the following foods.

Avoid food poisoning with these tips

FOOD Safety Week kicks off today with a timely warning to seniors what foods to avoid or cook to prevent the potentially deadly listeria infection.

The warning is going out to older Australians who have underlying health issues such as diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems due to other chronic diseases such as leukaemia, HIV, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, cirrhosis or ulcerative colitis.

The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) is advising them to avoid or cook the following foods:

  • Unpackaged ready to eat meats from delicatessen counters and sandwich bars; packaged, sliced ready-to-eat meats; cold cooked chicken purchased ready to eat, whole, diced or sliced and refrigerated paté or meat spreads.
  • All soft, semi soft and surface ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue (prepackaged and delicatessen), unpasteurised dairy products (such as raw milk or cheeses) and soft serve ice cream.
  • Previously prepared or prepackaged cut fruit and vegetable salads such as salads sold in bags or containers or from salad bars, shops or buffets, etc; pre-cut fruit and vegetables that will be eaten raw; frozen fruit or vegetables that may not be further cooked (such as berries, peas, sweet corn); rockmelon/cantaloupes (whole or cut); and bean or seed sprouts,
  • Raw seafood (such as oysters, sashimi or sushi); smoked ready-to-eat seafood; ready-to-eat peeled prawns (cooked) such as in prawn cocktails, sandwich fillings; and prawn or seafood salads; and seafood extender.

"Listeria are bacteria that are widely found in the environment so most raw foods are likely to be contaminated," FSIC chair Rachelle Williams said. "You don't have to miss out on your favourite foods as Listeria is easily killed by cooking so, for example, you can easily add ham to a pizza, feta to a quiche or smoked salmon to fully cooked scrambled eggs.

"Just remember that cooked foods can easily become re-contaminated through poor food handling after cooking. For foods that can't be cooked you can make other choices such as using fresh whole lettuce for salads rather than bagged lettuce."

Safe food handling can reduce the chance of listeria infection and other forms of food poisoning by following these tips:

  • Wash hands with soap and running water, and dry thoroughly before handling food.
  • Keep food utensils and cooking areas clean.
  • Unlike most other food poisoning bacteria, listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, so ready to eat food or leftovers should never be stored in the fridge for more than 24 hours.
  • Listeria grows slowly in the fridge, it will do so only very slowly at cold temperatures so make sure your refrigerator is keeping your food at or less than 5°C.
  • Avoid refrigerated foods that are past their 'use by' date.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours or freeze.
  • Always look for cooking and storage instructions on the food package label and follow them when provided.
  • Cook high risk foods such as poultry, minced meat, sausages, hamburgers and leftovers to 75°C.
  • Cook egg dishes such as quiche, to 72°C in the centre (or until the white is firm and the yolk thickens)
  • Cook frozen fruit and vegetables.

If you have questions about your diet and listeria, the FSIC recommends you talk to your GP or an accredited practicing dietitian about how to eat well while avoiding foods at risk of listeria.

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