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Don’t Cook Or Handle Food When You’re Crook – Experts Warn Of Risk Of Winter Gastro Outbreaks

With the cooler temperatures hitting non-tropical areas of Australia, the Food Safety Information Council is warning the community not to prepare food or drink for others if they have gastroenteritis.  As there are viral gastro outbreaks in the winter months, Council Chair, Dr Michael Eyles has advised the norovirus can also be transmitted by food.

‘Norovirus has been called the winter vomiting bug overseas as it spreads easily between people during winter due to the fact people are more inclined to stay inside in close contact thereby allowing the virus to easily spread.

‘Once norovirus is contracted, an infected person particularly if preparing food or drink can easily spread it to many others.

‘According to the latest annual report OzFoodNet by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, there are usually around 580 reported norovirus outbreaks across Australia in a year. Although the actual cause of these outbreaks can be difficult to determine, it’s safe to say that poor food hygiene can make the situation worse.

The recommendations are:

  • do not prepare food for others if you have gastro as you can easily make them sick as well.
  • do not handle or prepare food for the family or household for at least 24 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • arrange for someone else in your household to prepare food and drink – this is the safest thing to do.
  • if no one else is available to cook then try to prepare food that needs minimal handling such as frozen food that can be cooked in the microwave; or
  • treat yourself and your family to a take away that someone else can serve up.

Anyone working in food preparation should be aware it is illegal to handle food if you have gastro. If you must work, inform your boss of your illness and arrange to work somewhere, such as in administration, where you are not in contact with food or customers.

 Washing hands

Good hygiene practices will assist and  reduce your risk of getting norovirus (or spreading it to others if you already have it):

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water and drying thoroughly.
  • Don’t share hand towels with others.
  • Use paper or your own separate hand or kitchen towel.

‘The most important times to wash hands are after going to the toilet, changing nappies, cleaning up vomit or faeces (poo) or attending to a sick person who has vomited as well as before eating and preparing food.

Dr Eyeles concludes:

  • Don’t put your fingers in your mouth.
  • Don’t share plates, utensils or drink bottles with others. 

For more information on norovirus see Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-cdna-norovirus.htm-l~cda-cdna-norovirus.htm-l-app2 and the Better Health channel


Food Standards Australia New Zealand is a founding member of Food Safety Information Council

Source:  Food Safety Information Council media release: Tuesday 9 July 2013


CFT QLD offers food handler and food safety supervisor training onsite for groups, online and by correspondence.  To obtain further information please phone 1300 775 155