Food safety

various fruit and vegetables on a wooden board

Food safety focuses on how you handle, prepare and store food to reduce the risk of food making you sick. If you follow the rules of food safety, you can prevent food becoming contaminated and causing food poisoning.

For more information about how to continue trading and provide safe food, please see COVID-19 Food safety for takeaway and home delivery

Food poisoning can be caused by how you store and prepare food at home. You can prevent food poisoning by following a few simple rules.

For more information about food safety, please visit the Food Safety Information Council or download these fact sheets:

Food safety myths exposed

Myth one - Food that drops on the floor is safe to eat if picked up in three to five seconds

Not true. Floors are more often than not contaminated with harmful bacteria that will immediately attach to food. Food that drops to the floor should not be eaten or mixed in with other foods to be eaten at a later time.

Myth two - It is okay to eat mouldy food once the mouldy section is removed

You should not eat mouldy food. Visible mould is usually an indicator that the food is more thoroughly contaminated. Fungi, bacteria and toxins can be present in areas of the food that are not visible, so what looks like a small area of contamination could be much larger.

Myth three - If I peel fruit and vegetables, I do not need to wash them

The peeling process will expose fresh produce to cross contamination by transferring chemicals and harmful bacteria to the edible, internal layers of the food.

Soil particles and dirt contain contaminants and are often found on fresh produce. It is important to thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables before and after peeling.

Myth four - Food needs to look, taste or smell bad to cause food poisoning

Food does not need to look, smell or taste bad to be contaminated and cause food poisoning. This can be due to the ability of some bacteria to produce harmful toxins in the food.

Myth five - Cooking kills bacteria

This is only partly true. Some bacteria produce spores and toxins that are not destroyed by cooking, increasing their ability to cause foodborne illness. Good food safety handling practices can minimise the risk.

Myth six - You should not place hot food immediately in the refrigerator

Not true. It is important to make sure that large quantities of food are divided into smaller portions and placed in shallow containers. This allows for quicker cooling and reduces overcrowding in your refrigerator. Bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 5 degrees and 60 degrees celsius.

Myth seven - I’ve been handling food this way for years without anyone getting sick

You would likely not know. Many food poisoning incidents go under reported or unreported. Each year in Australia, it is estimated there are 5.4 million cases of food borne illness, 18,000 hospital admissions and 120 deaths with a cost to the economy of approximately $1.2 billion. (Source: OZ Food Net, Department of Health and Ageing).

Myth eight - An upset stomach is the worst outcome of food poisoning

While this may be true on some occasions, there are times when food poisoning can result in longterm conditions such as kidney failure, meningitis, stillbirths, GuillainBarre Syndrome and hemorrhagic colitis.

Diarrhoea, headache, vomiting and dehydration are the more common symptoms generally associated with food poisoning.