Community and Lifestyle

World Health Day: Consumers’ understanding of food safety still seriously lacking

Beef Central, 07/04/2015

AN Australian consumer food safety ‘report card’ released today in recognition of World Health Day has found that understanding of basic food safety principles surrounding meat proteins and other foods is still seriously lacking.

And younger consumers are the worst offenders.

Retail supermarket meatThis year’s World Health Day has the theme of food safety.

The Food Safety Information Council says that while it is good news that a recent Australian National University study found food poisoning cases in Australia have decreased from an estimated 4.3 million cases in 2000 to 4.1 million in 2010, this is still an alarmingly high number.

Council chairman, Professor Michael Eyles, said food poisoning can be serious and resulted in almost 32,000 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and one million visits to doctors on average each year.

Australian consumers get an A-plus for their knowledge of how to wash their hands correctly with the latest survey showing 98pc of those surveyed know how to wash hands using soap and running water and drying thoroughly.

A further 85pc also know to thoroughly wash a chopping board after using it for raw meat or poultry and before using it to prepare a raw food like salad. Almost 90pc correctly recognised that sausages should be cooked all the way through.

“But there are a number of other food safety practices where there is room for improvement,” Prof Eyles said.

Among the other findings:

  • Only 79pc recognised that hamburgers should be cooked all the way through.
  • 55pc always read and comply with ‘use by’ dates and only 45pc always read and comply with ‘best before’ dates.
  • 33pc of people always read and comply with storage instructions on packaged food labels and only 14pc always read and comply with cooking instructions
  • 25pc of parents that pack a lunchbox for school, fail to include a frozen drink or freezer block.
  • 60pc of home cooks are washing whole poultry before it is cooked which spreads bacteria around the kitchen. A further 16pc of those surveyed incorrectly tasted chicken to see if it is cooked properly rather than use a safe and accurate meat thermometer.

Also of concern was the lower level of food safety knowledge among 18 to 34-year-olds, compared with the older age group over 50, Prof Eyles said.

For example only 73pc of younger people know to cook hamburgers all the way through compared with 84pc of over 50s; only 87pc of the younger group know to cook sausages all the way through compared with 93pc of over 50s; and only 59pc of the younger group know to refrigerate chicken dishes straight away compared with 72pc of over 50s.

“This is a particular worry as some of these younger people are, or will become parents and be responsible for preparing food for vulnerable young children,” Prof Eyles said.

Basic tips

The Food Safety Information Council has some basic tips to follow to reduce consumers’ risk of food poisoning:

Clean – wash hands with running water and soap then dry hands thoroughly before starting to cook and after handling raw meat.

Chill – transport chilled or frozen food home from the supermarket or butchery in a cooler bag or esky. Use a fridge thermometer to make sure your fridge is running at or below 5ºC. Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Cooked food should be stored in covered containers and either put in the fridge to cool, or frozen immediately. Frozen foods should be defrosted in the fridge or microwave not on the kitchen bench

Cook – cook chicken, minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats and sausages right through until they reach 75°C using a meat thermometer. Serve hot food steaming hot above 60ºC. Always follow cooking instructions on packaged foods.

Separate – food should be stored in covered containers in the fridge and put raw meats and poultry in the bottom of the fridge so the juices don’t contaminate food on lower shelves. Don’t put cooked meat back on the plate the raw meat was on.


  • Today (Tuesday April 7) is World Health Day 2015. This year’s theme is ‘Food Safety.’

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