New resources to encourage food safety

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012


Each year, 5.4 million Australians get sick from food-borne illnesses - nearly a quarter of the population. It is estimated that these illnesses are the result of eating food contaminated with bacteria or viruses, a direct result of poor food safety practices.

“This figure is outrageously high considering Australia has one of the safest food supplies in the world due to effective working partnerships between food manufacturers, food handlers, retailers and government regulators,” said the Food Safety Information Council.

This year’s Food Safety Week, organised by the Food Safety Information Council, hinges on the key theme of cross-contamination. The council has launched a food safety campaign aimed at educating consumers about safe food handling practices, particularly with regards to chicken, while the Australian Chicken Meat Federation has launched an online resource that complements the Food Safety Information Council’s message.

“The chicken meat industry wants to make sure that consumers can safely enjoy every one of the well over 5 billion chicken meals consumed every year in Australia,” said Dr Andreas Dubs, Executive Director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.

“We are therefore keen to share with consumers and all those preparing meals the simple rules that will keep our food safe. To support this aim, we have developed a new online resource, www.chicken.org.au/foodsafety, which provides ready access to this information.”

The Food Safety Information Council has 10 food safety rules for chicken:

  1. When buying chicken, raw packaged chicken should be placed in a separate plastic bag to prevent any leakage of raw meat juices, which may contain bacteria and could get onto other foods that are eaten raw, such as salads.
  2. A clean working environment is essential to prevent contamination when working with chicken.
  3. Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw chicken.
  4. Keep utensils used with raw chicken meat - such as chopping boards, knives, tea towels - away from cooked chicken and from other foods that will be eaten raw.
  5. Avoid thawing chicken at the barbecue site and keep separate to minimise contamination with other foods.
  6. When planning to put chicken on the barbecue, consider par-cooking the chicken first (especially if marinades consist of honey) to avoid chicken being undercooked.
  7. Keep raw chicken separate from other foods in the fridge, when transporting and during preparation, so chicken juices do not come into contact with other food that will be eaten raw, such as fruits or vegetables.
  8. Do not use the same cutting board to carve cooked chicken as was used for the raw meat, unless it has been properly washed and dried before re-use.
  9. Cutting boards should be thoroughly scrubbed with hot soapy water after each use.
  10. Check chicken is cooked properly before eating. Juices should run clear, meat should not be pink and a meat thermometer should show a core temperature of 75°C.

“Chicken is among the leanest, most nutritious and easily cooked meats, but it’s important to handle and cook it appropriately,” said Joanna McMillan, nutritionist and accredited practising dietitian.

“Without a microscope, you won’t see any bacteria on chicken or other raw meat so you must handle it as if it were present. To reduce food safety risks when handling chicken there are a few simple rules around preparation and cooking to avoid cross-contaminating other food.

“Often a lack of understanding of why certain food safety practices need to be followed can be a factor in actual behaviour falling far short of good practice,” McMillan said.

To use the Australian Chicken Meat Federation’s online resource, visit www.chicken.org.au/foodsafety.

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