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Food Safety and Hygiene Guide for Christmas

Enjoying food with family and friends is part of many Christmas and summer holiday celebrations.

Unfortunately, due to things like warm weather, food sitting on tables for periods of time and higher consumption of seafood, there is also higher risk of getting a food-borne illness (food poisoning).

Food poisoning is mostly caused by pathogens (toxins or bacteria) getting into food. The most common types of food poisoning in Australia are:

These are contagious and can spread from person to person and through contaminated surfaces.

Symptoms of food poisoning can be mild to severe and can include

  • Vomiting, nausea, diarrheas
  • Feeling dizzy, sweating a lot, having a fever (chill)
  • Cramps, aches and pains, headache
  • Tingling arms and legs, blurred vision
  • Extreme cases of food poisoning can lead to miscarriage, brain damage, meningitis.

The best way to avoid food poisoning is to follow food hygiene and handling practices.

We all play a part to make sure the food we serve is safe for us and our guests to eat.

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What is the food cold chain?

The food cold chain refers to of keeping food at a cold temperate along the way from harvest, slaughter, production, storage to eating. This helps to keep these foods fresh and safe to eat.

For example, refrigerated foods like milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, meats, seafood need to be kept at controlled temperatures in a refrigerator below 5°C to stay fresh and safe to eat. Below 5°C, the growth of bacteria is limited.

Disruptions in the food cold chain puts food at risk of reaching temperatures of between 5°C and 60°C, where bacteria can grow rapidly and cause food-borne illness. This is called the food temperature danger zone and we should avoid food sitting at these temperatures.

From the moment we buy food we all have a role to play to help keep the food we eat to be fresh and safe to eat.

Five safe food practices for every home:

  1. Prepare food with clean hands and equipment
  2. Keep cold foods cold
  3. Make sure food is cooked properly
  4. Use food before the expiry date
  5. Take special care with high-risk foods


  • Wash your hands in warm soapy water for 20 seconds before, during, after preparing food and before eating
  • Wash your hands after handling pet food or touching pets, after using the toilet, after touching garbage, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, before and after caring for someone who is sick, and after treating a cut or wound
  • Keep benches, kitchen equipment and tableware clean and dry
  • Separate raw and cooked food and use different cutting boards and knives for both
  • Always separate and seal food properly in clean, airtight containers.
  • Don’t prepare food for others if you are or have recently been unwell


  • Keep the fridge below 5oC
  • Put any food that needs to be kept cold in the fridge straight away
  • Shop with a cooler bag and ice brick, picnic with an esky and ice-brick
  • Only buy and serve what you need, this will also help avoid wastage
  • Don’t overcrowd your fridge.
    • If your fridge is too full, air cannot circulate and the temperature can rise, food could be in the danger zone and become unsafe to eat.
    • When hosting - use eskies or the laundry tub filled with ice for drinks to create more space for perishable items in your fridge and reduces the number of times guests open the fridge door!
  • Don’t leave milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, meats, seafood, and salads out of the fridge for more than two hours
  • Don’t put hot foods in the fridge, this can increase the temperature of other foods in the fridge. Let food cool down on the bench for 30 minutes first.
  • Don’t eat food if it’s been left out for 2 hours or more


  • Cook foods to at least 60oc, hotter for specific foods
  • Reheat foods to at least 60oc, until they're steaming hot all the way through
  • Make sure there's no pink left in cooked meats such as mince or sausages
  • Look for clear juices before serving chicken


  • Don’t eat food past a 'use-by' date
  • Note the 'best before' date
  • Follow cooking instructions
  • Be allergy aware
  • Ask for information about unpackaged foods


Some foods like chicken, eggs, seafood, and leafy greens are more prone to bacterial contamination. These foods contribute to more cases of food poisoning than other foods.


Chickens and other live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria which can also transfer to the eggs laid.

If you eat raw or undercooked eggs, you can get sick.

  • Always handle and cook eggs properly to prevent illness
  • Don’t buy cracked or dirty eggs, wash your hands with warm soapy water
  • Keep eggs refrigerated
  • Only eat egg that is cooked.
  • Do not eat foods prepared with raw egg like mousse, tiramisu, hollandaise, uncooked pancake batter, or fresh mayonnaise.

Chicken includes spatchcock, capons. Other poultry includes turkey, duck, quail, pheasants. Raw poultry meat can contain food poisoning bacteria (Campylobacter bacteria, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria).

If you eat undercooked chicken, you can get a foodborne illness, also called food poisoning

Tips to keep chicken you eat safe:

  • Don’t wash raw poultry as this can spread bacteria in your kitchen.
  • Clean any excess moisture from chicken with paper towel and throw it in the bin.
  • Wash and dry hands and clean surfaces before during and after contact with raw poultry.
  • Defrost poultry in the fridge or microwave in a container which prevents juices dripping on other food.
  • Always use clean plates and utensils and wash and dry thoroughly between use for poultry.
  • Never place cooked food back on the same plate or board that previously held raw poultry.
  • Cook poultry meat to 75°C using a meat thermometer in the thickest part or until the juices run clear and are no longer pink.
  • Make sure frozen poultry is defrosted right through to the centre before cooking.

Contaminated seafood can cause many foodborne illnesses depending on the type of seafood, whether it’s contaminated with a toxin, bacteria or other. Cooking seafood does not destroy these contaminants.

  • Seafood should only be harvested from safe waters, chilled, and stored correctly and purchased from licensed suppliers.
  • Take seafood home in a cooler with ice blocks or ice
  • Put seafood in the fridge right away, in a covered container and make sure your fridge is running at 5°C or below
  • Oysters should be kept on ice and eaten as soon as possible after shucking
  • Eat prawns and live shellfish as soon as possible after purchase when they are at their best and use other refrigerated seafood within 2 to 3 days.
  • Raw seafood including oysters aren’t recommended for pregnant women, people with reduced immune systems, the elderly or young children as they are at greater risk of infection.
  • Cuts of these meats are safe to eat if it is heated on the outside to kill any bacteria, therefore you can cook this meat to your preference, medium, rare, or well-done!
  • Mince and sausages need to be cooked until there is no pink in the centre.
  • Never use a plate or board that has not been washed has raw meat on it.
  • Bacteria like E. coli can live in soil that greens are grown in. Contaminated water and animals can also transfer harmful substances to the food during the supply-chain.
  • Rinse leafy greens and vegetables under running water to help remove any harmful bacteria, this will also help remove any chemical pesticides
  • Use your hands to gently rub them to help get rid of germs and dirt.
  • Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Do not soak leafy greens, this can spread the bacteria.

More information:

Click here for a brochure of cooling and re-heating food

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