Study shows most of us don’t know the real danger lurking in our fridges

Do you know which foods in your kitchen pose the greatest risk for food poisoning? According to a national survey carried

Do you know which foods in your kitchen pose the greatest risk for food poisoning? According to a national survey carried out for Australian Food Safety Week, most Australians have some dangerous misconceptions.

For example, 71 per cent of those surveyed blamed milk for food poisoning when, in fact, it is the food item least likely to make you sick –even if it smells or tastes nasty – because pasteurisation kills harmful bacteria, and all legal milk in Australia is pasteurised.

The survey also found that most people correctly recognised that chicken, minced meat and seafood were food poisoning risks if not handled properly.

“What is of concern is that fewer people identified raw egg dishes as a problem and 12 per cent even considered raw egg dishes unlikely to be a risk,” says Food Safety Information Council Chair, Rachelle Williams.

“The national body OzFoodNet, which investigates food poisoning, has determined that poultry is the primary source of Campylobacter infections in Australia and the increase in Salmonella outbreaks in recent years is linked to raw or minimally cooked egg dishes such as hand made aioli and mayonnaise.  These types of food need to be handled and prepared with extra care to avoid causing food poisoning.

“Many people (38 per cwent) didn’t recognise that cooked rice is a food poisoning risk because, once it is cooked and begins to cool, bacteria can form a toxin which isn’t destroyed by further cooking.

“Forty per cent of people surveyed didn’t recognise bean or seed sprouts such as alfalfa as a risk, which they can be as they are usually eaten raw and have previously been linked to outbreaks in Australia and overseas.

In addition to the myth about ‘off’ milk being to blame here are six more common food poisoning myths:

1.     If I get food poisoning it is most likely the last meal I ate.
Everyone blames their food poisoning on the last meal they ate but some forms of food poisoning can take days or even weeks to eventuate.

2.     You can tell if chicken or minced meat dishes are cooked safely by tasting or if the juices run clear.
A thermometer is the only way to know your food is cooked correctly to an internal 75°C.

3.    Food poisoning is mild and just a bit of gastro.
While vomiting and diarrhea are the most common symptoms, food poisoning in extreme forms can cause reactive arthritis, kidney or nerve damage and hepatitis. Each year food poisoning results in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.

4.    If you are a vegetarian, your risk of food poisoning is low.
Food poisoning outbreaks have been caused by fruit and vegetable food items such as rockmelon, frozen berries, semi-dried tomatoes, orange juice, salad items and cooked rice.

5.     Home made mayonnaises and aoilis are better than the commercial ones. 
They might taste better but did you know they are a major cause of food poisoning outbreaks in Australia?  If you wish to make your own mayonnaise and aoli, prepare small amounts and use immediately.  Adding enough vinegar can also stop any Salmonella that may be present from growing – it does affect the taste, but it makes the product safe.  A touch of sugar can reduce the sourness.

6.     If you’ve defrosted frozen meat or chicken it can’t be safely refrozen.
From a safety point of view it is fine to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken or any frozen food as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below. You may have lost some quality in defrosting then refreezing as the cells break down a little and the food can become slightly watery. Another option is to cook the defrosted food and then divide into small portions and refreeze once it has stopped steaming.

When was the last time you got food poisoning? What do you think caused it? 

  1. The last time I got food poisoning was many years ago, I ate at a Chinese restaurant in Sydney and got very sick.It turned me off Chinese food for years

  2. As a child I was bought up on egg nogs loved them… Never once did I get ill. Only ever had food poisoning twice. More recent was few years ago food added to a roll bought from healthy style food chain chicken got the blame…

  3. Well I have never had food poisoning from eggs , I eat at least 3 cartons every week but always have them cooked.

  4. Last time we had food poisoning was fresh oysters bought at the Sydney Fish Markets few years ago, never touched a fresh oyster since,

    • Frank  

      my partner got ciguatera poisoning from some Spanish Mackerel from the Sydney Fish Market many years ago – it was in the newspapers – maybe 8 people hospitalised with excruciating muscle cramps – some corrupt person had illegally sold fish from a North Queensland fishing competition – which was not allowed to be eaten as it was a known risk area near a WWII sunken US warship with nuclear toxins or something. Hope they got caught and a few hooks put through them.

  5. Had severe food poisoning in 1997. Ended up in hospital, was convinced I was going to die. The night before getting sick, I had eaten fish at a local pub. I was very sick for three years! Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it, but it’s true. I had Chronic Fatigue, tummy upsets where I would hit my head against something because I couldn’t stand the pain and to help me remain conscious. I couldn’t plan an outing so our social life suffered, I couldn’t work so took a year off. If the word ‘barrimundi’ is tossed into conversation, it all rushes back at me! I ended up with severe diverticulitis, but thankfully, in recent years the attacks have lessened in frequency, if not in potency. So, to those who think food poisoning is a night with some part of you over the toilet and then a return to normal, that’s not always the case.

    • I feel for you Mary. I know from my own experience that this can be the worst pain the body can endure (spoken by my colorectal surgeon).

    • Dee, the strange thing is, I was basically cured by the oldest antibiotic known, called Bactrim. Turned out I had ingested a Parasite that while I was well didn’t harm ne, but once I was so ill and my resistance so low, it got me! It’s a parasite that lives on things like lettuce or strawberries. Once the laboratory discovered this, in ten days I was so much better! Ten days! And I was so sick for 3 years! I’m so sorry for you if you have suffered this type of pain! It’s horrendous! I hope you are better now, or at least improving. You have my complete sympathy and my good wishes.

    • Mary you mentioned strawberries and lettuce, will normal rinsing get rid of any parasites or are they inside the berries. 😊

    • Christina, I automatically wash all fruit and veggies, but I don’t think a casual wash is good enough. I was advised that I hadn’t washed something thoroughly enough, so I guess they are on the fruit. I also understood that in normal cases, in a healthy system, they are basically harmless. It’s the compromised system they attack, and I was desperately ill. If course, it’s better not to have them at all. So, I now wash every fruit and veggie extremely well. In fact, it took me a while to come back to eating any at all!

  6. I did know most of that but not about eggs! Nor did I know that food poisoning could have ongoing effects.

  7. We may as well crawl into a corner in die as everything we eat is dangerous for us. Sick to death of hearing about what kills us.

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