Food safety

What causes food poisoning

Some types of bacteria called pathogens can cause illnesses, as food that contains dangerous levels of pathogens may not look, smell or taste any different from food, which is safe. Bacteria multiply on most foods if given the chance, particularly if the temperature is between 5°C and 60°C which tells us that we must keep foods either very cold or very hot.

Title Type Size and format
Infectious diseases Information sheet PDF  600 kb

Food hygiene and safety in your home

Here are some simple tips to assist in lowering the risk of food poisoning at home. Remember the following tips when you are cooking:

  • Keep hot foods hot: Do not let hot food sit out at room temperature for extended periods of time. Time your cooking so your hot food does not require re-heating. Hot foods must be maintained at 60°C to inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Keep cold foods cold: Do not overload the fridge and check that it is running at 5°C or below with a fridge thermometer, available from your supermarket. 
  • Wash your hands: The most important barrier to stopping transferring germs and dirt from you to your food is washing your hands. Use warm water and soap and dry thoroughly. 
  • Cool and store hot  foods safely: If you want to keep cooked foods for later use, a simple rule is to cool the food to room temperature (around 21°C) within 2 hours and to fridge temperature within 4 hours.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate: Use separate utensils and chopping boards when preparing raw and cooked foods. Make sure that all foods are covered when stored, and always store raw food at the bottom of the fridge to prevent raw juices dripping on to cooked food.
  • Keep your kitchen and utensils clean: Keeping your kitchen clean will deter pests, as there is no readily available food source for them to eat. If you use baits around your kitchen, mark on your calendar when they need to be changed - the label on the packet will tell you this information. Leaving cockroach baits for longer than directed may cause them to be a food source as dirt and dust build up inside the bait. 
  • Defrost safely: When defrosting food, put it in the fridge overnight or use your microwave defrost setting. Don't leave foods on the bench or in the sink for extended periods of time!
  • Preparing food: Don't cook for others if you are unwell or if you are experiencing food poisoning symptoms as you could easily pass your germs on and make others unwell.