Australia’s food safety report for the last 12 months is “mixed” according to the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC).
There has been a decrease in reported Salmonella infections and a survey found fewer people are washing chickens. However, another survey found that handwashing has declined, while poisonings related to wild mushrooms continue to be recorded.
The testimony was released ahead of the fourth World Food Safety Day on June 7.
There are an estimated 4.1 million cases of foodborne illness in Australia each year, resulting in 31,920 hospital admissions, 86 deaths and 1 million doctor visits.
Mixed results and social media sales
Cathy Moir, FSIC Chair, said: “There has been mixed evidence for Australian food safety over the past 12 months and now we are on our way with public health relaxation measures needed to control COVID-19 infections which are affecting the population we need to make sure we follow basic food safety tips like proper hand washing, cooking processes and refrigeration temperatures.”
The council also criticized some social media companies like Facebook and WeChat for hosting advertisements for the sale of unregulated food and advised people not to take the risk of buying anything from an unregulated seller.
A study in Communicable Diseases Intelligence showed a 27 per cent reduction in reported cases of salmonellosis in Australia in 2020 linked to public health measures to control transmission of COVID-19 compared to the previous five years.
Factors behind the decline include the closure of restaurants and grocery stores during the coronavirus lockdown and fewer international travelers catching food poisoning while abroad. People may have been less likely to see a doctor and there may have been changes in lab testing capacity.
A consumer survey found that 49 per cent of Australian chefs wash raw whole chicken before cooking. However, that was down from 60 percent when the question was asked in 2011. Washing raw poultry can transfer bacteria to hands, surfaces, and other foods that aren’t meant to be cooked. It’s also unnecessary as properly cooking poultry kills all bacteria.
Another survey in October 2021 found that the number of times people washed or disinfected their hands per day had fallen by an average of 15 percent since the previous year.
Wild mushrooms grow after floods and wet weather. There have been a few cases of death cap poisoning, including a young child in Victoria and two young children and a man in the Australian Capital Territory, all of whom have been hospitalized. FSIC advice is not to pick or eat wild mushrooms and to remove any mushrooms that grow where children are playing.
Other WFSD events
Other countries are also celebrating World Food Safety Day with various activities including a dance challenge to raise awareness of the importance of food safety from June 7-14 in Mongolia.
The Argentine Food Safety Commission and Argentine Microbiology Association will host a webinar on June 6th and the African Union Commission will host a virtual event on June 6th and 7th. A symposium is scheduled for June 7 in Saudi Arabia.
INFOSAN is organizing a webinar on improving food safety emergency response, while Environmental Health Australia and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) in the United States will present a series of live discussions on June 7th.
A virtual run will be organized by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority and a Barcelona Food Safety Forum event will focus on alternative protein sources.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency (AESAN) are hosting two roundtables, one promoting the #EUChooseSafeFood campaign.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) speaks on June 7th about food safety and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
A webinar by the Danish Agriculture and Food Council and Food Nation focuses on plant-based foods. Italy’s Scientific Society for Evidence on Environment, Food and Safety at Work is organizing a webinar on edible and poisonous mushrooms and dietary supplements.
The South African Food Safety Summit, sponsored by Marler Clark, takes place on June 7th and 8th.
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