Putting an end to kitchen crimes

Thursday 27 May 2010, 8:20AM

New Zealanders spend far too much time in the bathroom from food poisoning, and they blame the wrong person, according to new consumer research commissioned by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

To help people avoid food poisoning, NZFSA has launched Kitchen Crimes Week on 24-28 May, to give consumers the information they need to keep their kitchens crime-free.

NZFSA’s survey shows that one in four Kiwis say they have had a bout of food poisoning in the past two years, and the vast majority believed the cause was a meal bought outside the home.

“But that’s not necessarily the case,” says NZFSA’s principal adviser Roger Cook. “We’re holding Kitchen Crimes Week to remind people that about 40 percent of food poisoning is from kitchen crimes at home.

“The most common crimes are not washing your hands properly and not cleaning your chopping boards between preparing raw meat or poultry and ready-to-eat foods.”

Food poisoning costs New Zealand $86 million each year, mostly due to lost productivity from 5.3 million days off work.

“Most people probably think they are squeaky-clean in the kitchen, but if you take a closer look many of us have to plead guilty to unknowingly committing food crimes in the kitchen,” Roger says.

The key to avoiding nasty foodborne bugs is to clean, cook and chill food properly. It is also imperative to have good hand hygiene.

Top 10 ways to fight kitchen crimes:

• Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before, during and after preparing food.

• Use separate cloths for wiping hands and dishes – and make sure they are clean.

• Change your sponge and dishcloth regularly. For a quick clean, rinse well in warm soapy water and then microwave for 2-4 minutes on high…that’ll kill most bugs.

• Keep raw and cooked foods, and the utensils and plates used for each, separate at all times.

• After cutting raw meat and poultry, wash your chopping board and knives thoroughly in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher.

• Cook chicken, mince and sausages right through. If in doubt, use a meat thermometer to check that these meats are cooked to the safe internal temperature (75°C).

• Perishable food can be left covered at room temperature for up to two hours. Then it should be eaten, refrigerated or thrown out.

• Make sure your fridge temperature stays in the 2°C to 4°C safe zone.

• Cover food before putting it in the fridge.

• Cover raw meat and store on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices don’t drip onto other food.

Note to the editor: Giant Food Smart sponges will invade downtown Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on Friday, May 28 to promote Kitchen Crimes Week, making for an excellent photo opportunity. These friendly invaders will be handing out Scotch-Brite sponges and food safety tips to people walking by. You will find the sponges in:

• Auckland, 210 Queen Street, from 8.15am-8.45am

• Wellington, 312 Lambton Quay, from 12.15pm-12.45pm

• Christchurch, corner of Cashel and Colombo streets, from 12.15pm-12.45pm