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Avoiding food poisoning

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  • Category: Food

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According to Channel Sevens Today Tonight Program, five million Australians are the victims of food poisoning every single year. And what’s worse is that these foods where among the most commonly eaten foods like sushi, kebabs, chicken and mince meat, which where all found to be high risk foods if not prepared properly, cooked properly or refrigerated.

As a result, lethal bacteria like salmonella, e.coli or listeria can make you seriously ill, put you in hospital, or even cause death. And it is more likely to occur in the summer months, where food is left outside and not kept refrigerated at the right temperatures.

Des Sibraa, a former chief food inspector for the New South Wales Department of Health says food poisoning is the nation’s “silent epidemic”, and that food suppliers and food outlets were not always to blame.

Most food poisoning outbreaks are done by somebody doing something incredibly stupid,” he said. “You can leave something out on the kitchen table for hours and hours at room temperature, and cause the outbreak yourself,” Des said.

Over the last 12 months, Today Tonight conducted a series of investigations into various foods alerting us to what happens if you or your regular food outlets fail to observe accepted safety standards.

With summer upon us and temperatures rising, scientist professor James Paton and Des Sibraa give us some reminders on the risks faced in food.

First they tested chicken. Our nation eats 400 million chooks each year, and with growth hormones being used these days, it was not surprising that after 35 days chooks weigh up to 30 per cent more compared to normal organic chickens.

“Nearly all chickens have got some salmonella in them,” says Des. After buying 16 chickens from a variety of suppliers to check for bacteria it was found that 75 per cent were contaminated with e.coli, salmonella or listeria.

Des says that chicken must be defrosted properly, because of the increased risk of food poisoning from improper defrosting.

Next sushi was examined.

When the health department in Canberra tested 55 sushi samples from 14 separate outlets, they found contamination was widespread. A third of the samples recorded the bacteria e.coli and the potentially deadly listeria. 63 per cent of the rice samples were at the wrong temperature.

How could you tell if the rice is off?

“Well you don’t know if its off that’s the trouble – which is why cooked foods like rice should be kept under five degrees or over 60 degrees.

“You can’t look at the food and say ‘this is safe this isn’t safe,’ so we need to be careful about how we handle food in the first place,” says Professor Paton.

You also have to cool the rice to the right temperature before you mix it with the raw fish…hot rice and raw fish can make you very ill.

The ACT’s health department also tested 82 kebabs, and found e.coli in 14 samples. Eight contained staphylococci and ten contained listeria.

A food poisoning victim Kat Karydis knew the risks only too well when she experienced serious cramps and vomiting after eating a kebab.

About 10-15 minutes later after eating a kebab her stomach kept rolling over, she said. “I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent and I know when something’s not right.”

Kat was lucky not to end up in hospital but was in bed for a couple of days after that eating the kebab.

Of all the foods tested, sushi it was believed was the one that had the greatest risk.

Sushi is very dangerous for two reasons, one you have cooked rice and raw fish, and just raw fish along can contain parasites, they can be crawling around in there and you can be eating a live parasite.

To avoid food poisoning this summer, the answer is to know and trust the outlet you’re buying from, how clean and hygienic they are. And always remember that the cheapest supplier may not be the best.

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