Food Safety At Home

Food poisoning is not always from the last restaurant, takeaway or café you ate out at.  Quite often, food poisoning occurs in the home. 

Find out how you can keep you and your family safe from accessing information in the links below:

Avoiding Cross Contamination at Home

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from a contaminated food or surface such as a chopping board and utensils to other food.  Follow these tips to avoid cross contamination in the home kitchen:

  • Wash your hands before preparing food and between preparing raw meats and ready to eat foods such as salads, vegetables, rice, pasta and fruit.
  • Chopping boards, plates, knives, blenders, mixers, bowls, benchtops that has been in contact with raw meats, poultry and seafood should be washed with warm water and detergent, then rinsed and dried before being used for ready to eat foods.
  • Prepare raw meats, poultry and seafood separately from other foods such as salads and vegetables.
  • Use paper towel to clean up raw meat and poultry juices or egg.  Don’t contaminate the dish cloth that you use to clean other surfaces.
  • Use different chopping boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood and ready to eat foods.
  • Make sure your chopping boards are kept in good condition – replace if they are becoming worn, damaged and too hard to keep clean.

BBQ and Picnic Safety

Here are some safety rules to follow for BBQ’s and picnics:

  • Transport all meat, seafood, salads, dips and cheeses in an esky.
  • Always clean the public BBQ and table before using.  Take detergent, paper towel and sanitising wipes with you.
  • Check you have cooked the meat through and it’s not raw in the middle before eating.
  • Throw away leftover food that hasn’t been kept cold.
  • Make sure cooked meat reaches the fridge within 2 hours so you can re-use for leftovers.
  • If there is nowhere to wash your hands with soap and warm water while preparing food, use sanitiser wipes and hand sanitiser.
  • Ensure kids clean their hands before eating.

Doggy Bags and Leftovers

If you do get a doggy bag, you should follow these simple precautions to avoid food poisoning:

  • Refrigerate the food as soon as possible.
  • Make sure your fridge at home is holding food at 5°C or less.
  • Throw the food away if you are not able to get it into the fridge within 2 hours of it being served to the table.  You can ask the restaurant to hold the doggy bag in their fridge until you are ready to leave.
  • Throw away food that is more than 48 hours old.
  • Reheat leftovers before eating, avoid eating cold.
  • Reheat food for at least 2 minutes until steaming hot before eating

There are no laws that restrict a food businesses from providing doggy bags to customers.  However, some food businesses choose not to take the risk as they cannot control what you do with the food after you leave.  


Here are some safety rules to follow for leftovers:

  • Place in the refrigerator within 2 hours after being served to the table.
  • If it has been left out on the table for greater than 4 hours since serving, throw it out and do not consume.
  • Don’t eat cold leftovers. Reheat to steaming hot before eating.
  • Keep leftovers for no longer than three days and then throw out.

Eating Out

It can be hard to tell which businesses employ safe food handling practices from the customer’s perspective.  Here are some tips to help you choose the right place to eat out:

  • Stand back and watch the staff for a few minutes and see how they handle food
  • Are staff wearing gloves or using tongs to handle and prepare ready to eat foods (i.e. salads, sandwiches)?
  • Are staff changing gloves and washing their hands after handling money?
  • Are staff well-groomed and wearing clean clothes?  Is their hair pulled back and out of the way?
  • Does the place look clean and tidy?
  • Are pre-made sandwiches and salads kept in a refrigerated cabinet?
  • Are pre-made hot dishes, pies and sausage rolls kept in a hot-holding cabinet (i.e. Bain Marie)?
  • If you can see the kitchen, does it look clean and tidy?

If you are concerned about the food handling practices of a local restaurant, café or takeaway food business, contact Council and lodge a complaint. The Environmental Health Officer will inspect the business and address any concerns. 

Egg Safety

Contrary to what many people believe, eggs should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain egg quality and lengthen storage life.  Egg whites and yolk can easily be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria located on the outside of the shell (just think of where they come from)!

To avoid food poisoning from eggs:

  • Check your eggs before you buy and never purchase dirty, cracked or leaking eggs.
  • Buy eggs from supermarkets or shops that store them refrigerated (if you can).
  • Salmonella bacteria can be destroyed by cooking eggs thoroughly in the cooking process
  • For raw eggs or lightly cooked egg foods and dishes, serve the food immediately and do not stand at room temperatures.  Egg nogs, mayonnaises, desserts etc. containing raw eggs must be kept in the refrigerator until just prior to eating.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling eggs.
  • Use an egg separator not the shell of the egg to separate eggs.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry equipment and surfaces used to prepare raw egg dishes before reusing them to avoid contaminating other foods.


Entertaining can pose food safety challenges:

  • Guests often bring food to share which means food can be out of the fridge for several hours
  • Many people prepare food well ahead of the event, for some foods need to be carefully chilled, refrigerated and reheated safely
  • You can quickly run out of room in your fridge to store all the food

To avoid poisoning your guests:

  • Avoid temperature abuse – keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
  • Cool food quickly if you prepare ahead of time and cool it in the fridge, not on the kitchen bench.
  • Thaw any frozen food correctly in the fridge in advance or in the microwave.
  • Keep food in the fridge covered and protected.
  • Bring in an extra fridge or use eskies with ice to store excess drinks to make room in the fridge for the food.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from ready to eat foods (salads, vegetable dishes and desserts).
  • Employ good hygiene practices – wash your hands.
  • Don’t prepare food if you’ve been sick with vomiting or diarrhoea in the last few days.
  • Cook mince meat patties and poultry thoroughly – no pink in the middle.
  • Don’t leave nibbles and platters with perishable foods (i.e. soft cheese, dips etc) out for long.

Fridge and Freezer

Making sure your refrigerator is storing food at 5°C can considerably reduce the chances of you or your family getting food poisoning and can also reduce food wastage. 

Purchase a thermometer and place it in your refrigerator to monitor how it is performing.  Adjust your fridge setting to lower the temperature if it is not running at or below 5°C. The temperatures in your refrigerator may vary from section to section – get to know your fridge and where the hot and cold spots are. The door and the top shelf are usually the warmest. The crispers for fruit and vegetables will usually be slightly warmer so that the fruit and vegetables don’t freeze.  Place the most risky foods in the colder spots, this includes leftovers, meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Avoid overcrowding stored products and ensure good air circulation around each item. 

If you can’t get your fridge to keep food at the right temperature, your seals might need replacing or you may need to get it looked at by refrigeration mechanic.

Be careful of how you store raw meats, poultry and seafood so that their juices don’t drip onto other foods. Cover any cooked or ready-to-eat foods stored in the fridge to reduce the risk of contamination. 

For the freezer, make sure it is keeping food frozen solid and store frozen foods in containers or freezer bags to avoid contamination and to maintain quality.

If you Lose Power

Within 2 hours of power being cut, all potentially hazardous food such as meat, poultry, seafood and ready-to-eat perishable foods in the refrigerator need to be either:

  • Placed in alternative cold storage and returned to temperature control of 5°C or less, i.e. esky with ice or into a family members or friend’s fridge; or
  • Eaten immediately.

After 4 hours, if the power hasn’t returned the food must be thrown out and not consumed.

Freezers that are in good condition may keep foods at safe temperatures for between 1 and 2 days if the door is kept shut. A full freezer can keep food chilled for up to 48 hours, while a half full freezer can be kept food chilled for 24 hours.  Opening and closing the doors will reduce the time the contents will remain at safe temperatures.

Foods that have partly defrosted or defrosted but remain very cold (5 °C or less) can be refrozen only once.  

Lunchbox Safety

  • When buying a lunch box, choose ones that have room for a frozen drink or frozen block.
  • Keep the lunch cool in the fridge until you are ready to leave home.
  • Put an ice brick in it and put in the fridge when you arrive at work or at school.
  • During hot weather you may want to re-consider what you put in your child’s lunch box and use safer alternatives such as hard cheeses, canned tuna and sandwich spreads.
  • Discard any high risk foods such as sushi, meat, poultry or eggs if not eaten that day.
  • Reheat any leftovers until steaming before eating.

Microwave Oven Safety

Food cooked in a microwave oven does not heat uniformly and unwanted bacteria may survive in portions not heated sufficiently. Follow recommend standing times to reduce this problem and stir your food mid-way through cooking to ensure it is evenly cooked through.

You should regularly clean your microwave to reduce build-up of food and stop microorganism growing in large numbers. Cook food with a cover to avoid excess splatter.

Pets and Food Safety

Pets are part of the family however they can carry millions of germs which can be easily transferred to us and our food. Keep your pet out of the kitchen. Don’t keep food and water bowls for pets in or near the kitchen and don’t wash them with items you use to eat from or cook with. Wash them separately. Always wash your hands after touching pets, particularly before you prepare food.


Some useful food safety tips when shopping for your groceries include:

  • Choose a clean trolley or basket.
  • If you have re-usable shopping bags, regularly wash them to keep them clean.
  • Don’t put fresh fruit and vegetables you won’t peel or cook before eating directly in the trolley.  Put them in a clean bag.
  • Avoid food with damaged packaging, i.e. check cans for swelling and/or leakage, broken tamper seals, rusty or severely dented cans, and damaged seams.
  • Don’t buy food that has mould visible (except for some cheeses and cured meats which mould is part of the product) or has deteriorated or shows signs of spoilage.
  • Avoid foods past there Use-by Date as they no longer safe to eat. Foods past their Best-Before Date are perfectly safe to eat but they may have lost some of their nutritional value or quality.
  • Check the packaging when selecting meat, poultry and seafood to make sure it is not leaking any juices.
  • Put your meat, poultry and seafood in separate bags from fruit and vegetables.
  • Shop for non-perishable food first and leave chilled and/or hot foods last.
  • Keep hot foods separate in the trolley from chilled and frozen foods.
  • Avoid over-buying.  Perishable foods have a limited shelf life.
  • Shopping should be last on your ‘to-do’ list.  Once finished, take it home as soon as possible.  Avoid leaving your shopping in a hot car.
  • When home, pack chilled and frozen products into your refrigerator or freezer first.
  • Don’t leave the hot chicken on the bench waiting for dinner later. Either refrigerate or keep hot in the oven.

The Dirty Dish Cloth

Dish cloths are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria because they sit at room temperature which is ideal for microbial growth, they contain food particles which are a source of food for microbes and they provide moisture needed for their microbial activity. They can be a source of contamination in the home when being used to clean benches, surfaces and dishes. 

To keep your dish cloth safe to use, soak it in bleach for a few minutes every 2-3 days or wash it in boiling-hot water and detergent for a few minutes. Replace them regularly.


Useful Links