Back to Work Food Safety Tips


woman-work-lunchYou must make a concerted effort to make sure your family’s lunches and your own work lunches are kept out of the temperature danger zone.

Everyday we put our own and families health at risk without even thinking of the consequences involved, it is estimated there are 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. It is so easy to take simple and quick steps to ensure the safety of yourself and more importantly your family on a daily basis.

Perishable food becomes unsafe to eat if the total time in the temperature danger zone (5° C – 60° C) is greater than 4 hours, to put this in perspective; this is about the time between leaving home and lunchtime!

Packing a lunch to take to work is a healthy and cost effective option, but leaving that lunch out of the workplace fridge or not in a cooler if you work outside can lead to food poisoning bacteria growing quickly during hot weather. Bacteria especially like to grow in the healthier foods, such as premade salads and cold meats. It only takes a few minutes to make a quick detour to the fridge when you first step into the office, a choice that can decide your health’s fate.

So step up and rather than avoid it, make friends with that fridge at work that no one seems to own. Make sure it is clean and not packed with ageing food. Put in a fridge thermometer and check it is running at 5° C or below.

Begin the working year by everyone getting together to clean out the fridge and giving it at least one owner – a person responsible for setting up a workplace roster for keeping fridges and kitchens clean. Pens and labels should be available for people to label containers with name and date.

Below are some more precautions you can take to ensure your lunch stays risk free:

  • Ensure you prepare food with well-washed hands and utensils
  • Wash your hands before eating lunch
  • Lunch boxes and reusable drink bottles must be thoroughly washed and dried daily
  • Avoid risky foods in hot weather such as soft cheeses, sprouts, pate, etc.
  • Put food in the fridge as soon as you arrive at work
  • Pack frozen or chilled drinks in with food items to help keep the temperature down
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 days – if in doubt, throw it out! 

Employers can assist by making refrigerators and coolers are available and in good order. Hand washing soap and drying facilities should be made available in kitchens and hand washing posters put up or awareness made by Food Hygiene Courses undertaken. This could lead to a reduction in sick leave, not just from food poisoning but also viruses such as norovirus and influenza, which are currently taking a toll in the Northern Hemisphere.

Food poisoning results, on average, in 120 deaths, 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion.

If you have food poisoning, don’t go to work and avoid handling food for others until 48 hours after symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea stop.

If food poisoning symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

For further information:

Food Safety Information Council 

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