• The NSW Food Authority is advising consumers to take some simple precautions to minimise the risk from foodborne illness in rockmelons. (Foodcollection/Getty Images)Source: Foodcollection/Getty Images
With every degree the temperature gets warmer, the risk of food poisoning increases in Australia. Here's what you need to know about the foods that may carry a higher risk of foodborne diseases than others.
By
Yasmin Noone

19 Dec 2019 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 19 Dec 2019 - 2:22 PM

Summer is a time for backyard parties, barbecues, al fresco dining and beach picnics. But it’s also the season for food poisoning.

“With every degree the temperature gets warmer, the risk of food poisoning increases in Australia,” says Lydia Buchtmann, spokesperson for Food Safety Information Council. 

“Summertime is also when we tend to entertain the most – we have more picnics, BBQs and celebrate Christmas.” This means there are more opportunities for food to be left out in the heat to spoil and for otherwise healthy people to experience an unpleasant bout of food poisoning.

“If they get food poisoning, it could be life threatening.”

“At various summertime events where people are getting together with family and friends from a number of generations and life stages, there will be a chance that you’ll be eating with vulnerable people who face a higher risk of food poisoning.”  

On the list of vulnerable individuals are young children, pregnant women, older people and people with reduced immunity or serious illness, like cancer. “If they get food poisoning, it could be life-threatening.”

Here are the foods you should avoid if you are in a high-risk group or are catering for vulnerable people. Healthy individuals may also want to exercise due caution and pay attention to how they prepare store and serve these foods because no one is ever totally immune to food poisoning.

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1. Rockmelons

Rockmelons, that originally hail from Asia, are a favourite versatile summer fruit that you can pair with anything from prosciutto to ice cream.

“Rockmelons have a porous skin that can pull bacteria from the ground into the fruit itself,” Buchtmann explains. “They have thinner skin compared to some other types melons so the fruit may come into contact with bacteria [from contaminated water, fertiliser or pests/animals more easily].”

“As a result, the NSW Food Authority is advising consumers to take some simple precautions to minimise the risk from foodborne illness in rockmelons,” the Food Authority says.

According to the NSW Food Authority, rockmelons have been linked to Salmonella poisonings in 2016 and a Listeria outbreak in elderly people in 2018. “As a result, the NSW Food Authority is advising consumers to take some simple precautions to minimise the risk from foodborne illness in rockmelons,” the Food Authority says.

To reduce your risk of food poisoning, buy melons that are fresh and undamaged. Rockmelons should also be refrigerated within two hours of peeling or cutting, and discarded if left at room temperature for longer.

Home cooks should always use a clean, separate cutting board and knife when preparing fresh rockmelon.

Vulnerable populations should avoid eating rockmelon altogether.

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2. Sprouts

“There have been major food poisoning outbreaks linked to a range of seed sprouts, from alfalfa in your salads to large bean sprouts commonly featured in Asian cooking,” Buchtmann says.

“This is because right inside the seed before it sprouts, there can be contamination. So cooking sprouts in a stir-fry is not enough to kill the bacteria growing inside.

“Sprouts are not recommended for vulnerable people, even if they are simply sprinkled on top of a pad Thai.”

If you’re not at a higher risk of food poisoning, you can eat sprouts but it’s recommended that to do so, you store seed sprouts at 5ºC or below. Always safely adhere to the use-by-date on the packaging and follow other storage directions.

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3. Antipasto cured meats and smoked salmon

Antipasto boards featuring international cured meats like salami and prosciutto are easy to prepare but if left out of a fridge for more than two hours and eaten thereafter, they could cause a food poisoning episode.

Buchtmann says smoked salmon falls within the same category. If it’s left outside of the fridge for more than two hours, it’s best to throw the smoked salmon and salami away rather than consume it.

Vulnerable people should avoid eating any deli meats or smoked salmon together.

“However, even if you’ve opened the bag of greens before the use-by-date, you should use it within 24 hours to lower the risk of food poisoning.”

4. Leafy greens

“Bagged lettuce and other leafy greens sold in packaging usually come with a use-by-date. It’s advised that you don’t open and eat the contents of the bag after that date,” she explains.

“However, even if you’ve opened the bag of greens before the use-by-date, you should use it within 24 hours to lower the risk of food poisoning.”

5. Raw eggs

More than one-third of all foodborne outbreaks identified in Australia were linked to eggs and egg-based dishes, a report from OzFoodNet in 2011 shows.

This is because eggs can be contaminated by Salmonella when they are laid and can be a source of food poisoning if they are not handled or cooked properly. Vulnerable people should avoid uncooked dishes, sauces and dressings containing raw or lightly cooked eggs like mousses, tiramisu, Hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise.

People who are in a low risk group should still exercise caution and always wash their hands after handling raw eggs.

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