5 Tips for keeping you and your family safe in the kitchen

It’s Australian Food Safety Week and Lite n’ Easy dietitian, Ashleigh Jones shares some important food safety tips to ensure you keep you and your family safe when handling and preparing food at home.


The Food Safety Information Council reports that in an average year there are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors. The past 12 months has seen a mixed report card for Australian food safety:

✔︎ Less diagnosed food poisoning – fewer diagnosed cases of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections.

✔︎ Handwashing improves after the toilet – 4% increase in the number of people who said they always wash their hands after going to the toilet (up from 79% to 83%).

✖︎ Handwashing decreases before food preparation – 5% drop in the number of respondents (from 63% to 58%) saying they always washed their hands before handling food.

✖︎ Need to close the gender gap – men were less likely than women to say they always wash hands after going to the toilet (80% of men versus 85% of women) and before touching food (53% of men versus 62% women).

✖︎ Need to close the age gap too – 55% of respondents between 18 and 34 years said they always washed their hands before handling food (compared with 61% of over 50s).

Source: Australia’s Food Safety Report Card

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help reduce these stats in the home.

1. Wash your hands properly

It’s never been more important to keep up a rigorous hand washing routine when preparing and cooking food. Ensure you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds prior to any food preparation and after touching raw meat, eggs and vegetables.

It’s also important to wash your hands after touching your face, nose, after the toilet and if you’ve touched an animal.

Dry your hands properly too, as bacteria can be transferred via moisture.

2. Keep food cold

Did you know that cold food should be stored at or below 5°C? Doing this can considerably reduce the chances of you or your family getting food poisoning.

Storing perishable foods and food ingredients in the fridge or freezer is primarily to prevent food poisoning or to slow down spoilage and loss of food quality. At 5°C or colder and at freezing temperatures many bacteria that cause food poisoning and food spoilage either don’t grow or their growth may be slowed down.

Certain areas of the fridge are colder than others, so think about which food products you want to put where:

  • Fridge door: warmest section
  • Top shelf: slightly warmer section
  • Middle shelf: colder section
  • Bottom shelf: coldest section
  • Crisper: maintains humidity

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after the meal. Divide into small containers so they cool quickly.  If leftovers have been in the temperature danger zone for more than 2 hours they should be eaten or refrigerated immediately and for more than 4 hours they must be thrown out.

Always store perishable leftovers in the fridge and use them up within two to three days.

When there is a power outage you need to take extra measures to reduce the risk of food-related illness. It is important to record the time the power went off. When a power cut is ongoing (more than 4 hours) food safety becomes an important issue.

3. Cook food properly

Ensuring food is cooked properly and to the right internal temperature reduces the chance of food poisoning. If you’re unsure, a cooking/meat thermometer can be used to ensure the food is adequately cooked at the right temperature.

Whole pieces of meat, such as steak, beef, pork and lamb, can be cooked to taste (rare, medium-rare and well done) as long as the outside of the meat is fully cooked to kill external bacteria.

Always cook chicken, rolled and stuffed meats, tenderized, marinated and moisture enhanced meats, sausages and minced meat, such as hamburger patties and sausages until the juices run clear and there is no pinkness. If you are using a meat thermometer the temperature of the thickest part of the meat should reach 75°C.

Lastly, keep food really hot until you serve it. When reheating food ensure that it is piping hot all the way through (if using a meat thermometer ensure it is at least 75°C in the centre) and don’t reheat any food more than once.

See more details on safe cooking temperatures.

4. Check your refrigerator

At least once a week, check through the food in your fridge and throw out anything past its expiry date or foods that look like they should no longer be eaten.


Food storage temperature °C Shelf life in the home
Seafoods 0-3 3 days
Crustaceans and molluscs 0-3 2 days
Meat 0-3 3-5 days
Minced meat and offal 0-3 2-3 days
Cured meat 0-3 2-3 weeks
Poultry 0-3 3 days
Fruit juices 0-5 7-14 days
Milk 1-5 5-7 days
Cream 1-5 5 days
Cheese 0-5 variable (1-3 months)
Butter 0-5 8 weeks
Oil & Fat 2-5 variable (6 months)
Margarine 2-5 variable (6 months)
Chilled meats and meal components 0-3 no longer than ‘use by’ date
Leftovers 0-3 3-5 days

Source: Handling food in the home

5. Avoid cross contamination

Cross contamination can occur when bacteria is transmitted from one place to another. Bacteria can be transferred from utensils, chopping boards and hands.

Keep surfaces and utensils clean and sanitised, and wash with detergent or hot, soapy water.

When dealing with raw meat, it’s advisable to use boards made from non-porous materials such as glass or plastic. Some people like to have different boards for different foods and even colour code them. All boards should be well cleaned after use with hot water and detergent.

Learn more about food safety and test your knowledge and take the food safety quiz on the Food Safety Information Council website www.foodsafety.asn.au

Content Credits:

The Food Safety Information Council Ltd. is a health promotion charity and the national voice for science-based, consumer-focused food safety information in Australia. The council aims to reduce the number of Australians getting sick from food poisoning by providing simple, easy to follow consumer information on the handling, storage and preparation of food. The Council’s major activity is Australian Food Safety Week held annually in the second week of November.


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