Food safety: what you need to know

Many people don’t heed to food safety tips, so here’s how to avoid food poisoning at home.

older lady washing vegetables in her very white kitchen

Most food handling tips are straightforward, but many people still don’t heed the guidance. By following unsanitary food practices at home, food can become easily contaminated or go off before it needs to – and increase your risk of getting food poisoning. So here’s what the food and safety authorities advise as safe food handling practice.

Handling food safely

These basic food-handling tips will help you reduce the risk of food poisoning:

  • wash your hands and fingernails thoroughly with warm running water and soap before you prepare food
  • avoid handling food when you are unwell
  • keep raw meats, poultry and seafood separate from cooked food and food to be eaten raw
  • to reduce the risk of cross contamination, store food in the refrigerator in closed containers or covered with plastic wrap
  • use clean utensils, plates or containers to prevent contaminating cooked food or food that will be eaten raw
  • use clean equipment, rather than hands, to pick up food
  • properly wash with water any fruit and vegetables to be eaten raw
  • cook food thoroughly, especially minced meat, burger patties, sausages, rolled roasts, stuffed meats, rabbit, seafood and poultry.

Hot food

To prevent food poisoning from hot food:

  • keep it at 60ºC or above until served
  • refrigerate or freeze food that is to be prepared well in advance and reheat to steaming hot before serving
  • only when hot food has stopped steaming should you place it in the fridge or freezer
  • divide large quantities of food into small, shallow containers for faster cooling
  • reheat as quickly as possible until steaming hot
  • cook or reheat packaged food according to any directions on the label.

Cold food

To prevent food poisoning from cold food:

  • take cold groceries home to the refrigerator as quickly as possible
  • keep chilled and frozen food cold (e.g. in an insulated bag or with ice) if it will be a long time before it can be placed in a refrigerator or freezer
  • store cold food at 5ºC or below
  • thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen bench
  • do not refreeze food once it has been defrosted
  • store and handle cold food according to any directions on the label
  • regularly check the temperature of the refrigerator.

Read more at Queensland Government and the Food Safety Information Council.

Do you have any food poisoning stories? Can you trace back to how it happened?

Related articles:

Do you know how safe your food is?

Is it time to clean your fridge?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    29th Feb 2016
    If you are cutting up raw chicken on a cutting board, when you've finished make sure you wash that board in hot soapy water, before you use it again, preferably straight away, and that includes all knives used in the process. Raw chicken can contain Salmonella bacteria; there are many species of Salmonella and it doesn't matter which one it is. When I worked, I isolated and identified the various Salmonellas, that's how I know.

    29th Feb 2016
    If your meal has tasted a bit "offish" it's a good idea to say Grace after the meal, as well.
    29th Feb 2016
    I am totally sick and tired of people telling me I can't refreeze thawed food. I've been doing it all my life with zero ill-effects. As with any food, use common sense and your nose.

    Please note the following -
    The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) advises:
    Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F (32°C).

    I firmly believe that the garbage about not refreezing was invented by butchers to encourage the gullible to toss it out and buy more (much like the "use by" dates on packaged food).
    29th Feb 2016
    This is true, as long as bacteria doesn't have time to contaminate your thawed food before being refrozen. This is very unlikely if put fairly promptly back into the frig before refreezing - all just like you have stated above.
    29th Feb 2016
    It amazes me, living in Queensland, in the middle of Summer, the women I see with a trolley full ,frozen food and milk as well, just sitting talking and having a coffee. All the while the food is getting warmer and warmer. To me its putting their families at risk, is it not better to be safe than sorry.
    Have a coffee before shopping!!
    29th Feb 2016
    What about the eggs??
    29th Feb 2016
    Best refrigerated.

    Tags: food, safety

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles