Care urged when it comes to food preparation and storage

Following 161 reported cases of salmonella poisoning within the district last summer, NSW Health has urged people to be careful when it comes to food preparation and storage.

NSW Health issued a health warning about salmonella poisoning earlier this month as temperatures rise over summer.

In November, there were 28 reported cases of salmonella poisoning within the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD).

That number is expected to rise during the hotter, summer months when poor hygiene is less forgiving.

Last summer, there were 161 reported cases of salmonella poisoning within the SESLHD and 1391 across NSW.

St George Hospital emergency department senior staff specialist Peter Grant said people should take extra care with food preparation and food storage, when eating meat and eggs.

Salmonellosis is a type of gastroenteritis caused by salmonella bacteria found in animals.

Salmonellosis symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms usually start around six to 72 hours after contaminated food is eaten and usually last for four to seven days, but can continue for much longer.

“Patients that have symptoms are quite infectious,” Dr Grant said.

“They should not come to work for 48 hours after the last signs of any symptoms.”

Dr Grant said food must be cooked thoroughly to kill salmonella bacteria and food should not be left out in the heat.

The longer food is left at room temperature the more salmonella bacteria will multiply.

Dr Grant said about one in five cases of salmonella poisoning resulted in admission to hospital, and people should visit their GP in the first instance if they experience symptoms.

NSW Health director communicable diseases Vicky Sheppeard said careful preparation and storage of food was the best defence against salmonellosis.

“Products containing undercooked eggs, and the spread of germs in the kitchen, are the most common source of salmonellosis outbreaks in NSW.

“Salmonellosis can be quite severe and people sometimes have to be hospitalised to manage dehydration, particularly in young babies, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Most people recover from salmonellosis by resting and drinking fluids but antibiotics are required in complicated cases.

“Salmonellosis can take the joy out of the festive season but just a few simple precautions with the preparation and storage of food can make all the difference.”