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Queensland Health debunks food safety myths
Food poisoning will strike about 1.4 million Australians this year, with poor food handling the prime cause of the misery.
And authorities say better food safety knowledge among Australian could drive those figures right down.
Australian Food Safety Week was held this month as national health authorities redoubled their efforts to debunk myths surrounding food safety and educate the wider community about foodborne diseases, including salmonella and campylobacter poisoning.
Sophie Dwyer, Health Protection Branch executive director at Queensland Health, said one of the first big myths people had was that food poisoning was no big deal.
“Many people don’t think it’s serious, and they think it’s something that will make them feel sick for a while but they’ll be right the next day,” she told news.com.au.
“While that’s true for many people, for others it can be a very serious illness and can require hospitalisation.
“Some cases can lead to ongoing problems. For example, people who are exposed to campylobacter and get quite sick can also have, following that, irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and in rare cases, Guillain-Barre syndrome. These are rare complications but ongoing problems are possible for some people.
“It can be quite serious for the general population. We had some outbreaks last year where we had a lot of people who needed to seek hospital attention.”
Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with immune-compromised conditions are the most at risk of foodborne disease — but no one is resistant.
Campylobacter poisoning, which is caused by uncooked chicken and cross-contamination, is the most common cause of food poisoning in Australia, but its stablemate salmonella is another concern for authorities.
Despite a decline in the overall national rate of food poisoning, salmonella poisoning cases in Queensland have doubled in the past year. In one outbreak, in February, 175 school principals were forced to call in sick after they were all poisoned by salmonella at a conference.
Last year NSW saw the highest-ever number of reported cases of salmonellosis, up 20 per cent on the previous year, according to a report released in July by OzFoodNet.
There has also been a 50 percent increase in salmonella poisoning since 2012 in Victoria, where 44 were sent to hospital after high tea at the Langham Hotel this year.
Ms Dwyer said it was too difficult to determine what proportion of foodborne illnesses were contracted by eating out versus eating in.
“But certainly from our estimate there would be a significant number of people who get sick from food preparation within the home,” she said.
“I think there’s certainly both myths and lack of knowledge about to handle food.”
Here are some things you might think you know about food preparation and food poisoning that the experts say are total myths.
Published by news.com.au 19th November 2015