Australian Food Safety Information Council
The Australian Food Safety Information Council is a health promotion charity. The Council develops consumer-targeted food safety information to address the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors on average every year
History and governance
The Council was founded in 1997 as the Food Safety Campaign Group and incorporated in 1999 as the Food Safety Information Council It is supported by state and territory health and food safety agencies, local government, and leading professional, industry and community organisations .
The Council Chair is Cathy Moir who was appointed in March 2019. Previous Chairs have been Rachelle Williams who was appointed in July 2015, Professor Michael Eyles who was appointed in August 2007 and his predecessor was Professor Tom McMeekin AO
The Food Safety Information Council provides consumer information on the handling, storage and preparation of food. They organize Australian Food Safety Week held during the second week of November each year.
The Council also has a role in providing consumer advice on food recalls and emergencies such as the Listeria in rockmelons/canteloupes outbreak in March 2018 and frozen berries Hepatitis A recall in February 2015 They also take part in education events such as 2015 World Health Day which focussed on food safety
Research topics and education
As part of its educational activities, the Food Safety Information Council has carried out consumer research into food safety knowledge. It also publicizes the results of food-related research. For example, a study by the Australian National University, published in November 2014, found in 2010 that there were an estimated 4.1 million cases of foodborne disease acquired in Australia on average each year, along with 5,140 cases of non-gastrointestinal illness. The main causes were Norovirus, pathogenic Escherichia coli, Campylobacter spp. and non-typhoidal Salmonella spp., although the causes of approximately 80% of illnesses were unknown. A question and answer fact sheet published by the Australian Department of Health together with this study references the Food Safety Information Council's consumer advice as a means of reducing food borne disease Most foodborne disease outbreaks in Australia have been linked to raw or minimally cooked eggs or poultry. The Food Safety Information Council estimates that one third of cases of food poisoning occur in the home
Consumer research released in October 2019, found that more than 20% of Australians admitted that they didn’t always wash their hands after using the toilet and nearly 40% of respondents stated they didn’t always wash before handling food. A further 43% of Australian adults say they don’t always wash after handing raw eggs. The research showed gender differences, as men were less likely than women to always wash hands after going to the toilet (76% of men versus 82% of women) and before touching food (59% men versus 66% women). People under age 34 were less likely to wash their hands.
A previous 2007 study found that 97 per cent of Australians knew that washing their hands before handling food is essential, this compared with 54 per cent who didn’t wash their hands in 1997 – a 43 per cent improvement.
The Council’s egg survey, published in November 2019, found that 25% of Australians over the age of 18 were consuming raw or minimally cooked eggs with 12% eating them at least once a month. Raw or lightly cooked egg dishes have been linked to cases of Salmonella infection in Australia
A 2012 chicken meat study found 60% of home cooks were at risk of food poisoning by washing whole poultry before it was cooked, which can spread bacteria around the kitchen. A further 16% of those surveyed incorrectly tasted chicken to see if it was cooked properly rather than using a safe meat thermometer.
Date marking and cooking/storage instructions
A 2013 labelling survey found that 55% of those surveyed always read and comply with 'use by' dates and 45% always read and comply with ‘best before’ dates. Only a third (33%) of people always read and comply with storage instructions and 14% always read and comply with cooking instructions.
A 2012 lunchbox survey found almost 80 per cent of adults take a packed lunch to work, yet many fail to make sure it’s kept cool. About 17 per cent admitted they made no effort to put their lunch in a fridge at work, and 29 per cent don’t put them in coolers even if they’re working outside.
Food safety risks
An October 2015 national Australian survey by OmniPoll for Australian Food Safety Week found that 71% of those Australians surveyed blamed pasteurized milk for food poisoning while 83% identified raw egg dishes as a problem and 12% even considered raw egg dishes unlikely to be a risk. The survey found that most people correctly recognised that chicken (95%), minced meat (90%) and seafood (96%) were food poisoning risks if not handled properly.
Cooking temperatures for riskier foods
An October 2016 national Australian survey by OmniPoll for Australian Food Safety Week 2017 showed that 70% of those surveyed reported that they didn’t know the safe cooking temperature for foods high-risk foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry. Of those that reported they did know the correct temperature, most were wrong with 15% saying below the safe temperature of 75°C and 9% stating it should be 100°C or more.
2018 Omnipoll research that shows that one in three Australians are either at risk of getting the potentially fatal Listeria infection themselves or live in a household with someone at risk. This research also showed a third of these people who are at risk, or living with someone at risk, had never heard or Listeria infection and two in ten of these couldn’t name any of the foods they needed to avoid or cook to prevent Listeria infection
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