Most Australians don’t know safe cooking temperatures for high-risk foods - FSIC

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Australian Food Safety Week 11-18 November
Australian Food Safety Week 11-18 November

Related tags Food safety Australia Meat Beef

Most Australians do not know the safe cooking temperatures for foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry, according to a Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) survey.

The health promotion charity released the survey for Australian Food Safety Week (11-18 November).

Rachelle Williams, FSIC chair, said 70% of those surveyed didn’t know the safe cooking temperature for these high-risk foods.

“Even worse, of those that reported they did know the correct temperature, most were wrong with 15% saying below the safe temperature of 75°C and 9% stating it should be 100°C or more, which would be a pretty burnt piece of food,” ​she said.

“Coupled with this lack of knowledge is another of our surveys which found 75% of Australians surveyed reported that there wasn’t a meat thermometer in their household and only 44% of those with a thermometer reported using is over the previous month.”

Push to use a meat thermometer

There are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year and escalating rates of Campylobacter and Salmonella infection.

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.

Council recommendations

  • Red meat or pork that is minced, stuffed, rolled or boned or is mechanically tenderised or corned beef pumped with brine using needles must be cooked to 75°C in the centre.
  • Any poultry such as chicken, ducks or turkey (including their livers) must be cooked to 75°C in the thickest part near the centre.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to 75°C in the centre and stirred to ensure even temperature
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiche, should be cooked until 72 °C in the centre (or until the white is firm and the yolk thickens)

The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in the country is $1.25bn.

The council is encouraging Australians to pick up a food thermometer and learn how to use it properly.

“You should place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food,” ​said Williams.

“As close to the centre as possible and it should not touch bone, fat, or gristle. Start checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Be sure to clean the stem of your food thermometer before and after each use.”

Queensland Health, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, the Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania, Elanco Australasia and Media Heads support Australian Food Safety Week 2017.

Australia and China trade

Meanwhile, Australia and China have held a meeting on food safety that included discussions on exports of Australian meat products and infant formula.

Luke Hartsuyker, Australian assistant minister for agriculture and water resources, said it is a supplier of meat and food to China and ensuring quality and safety is in both countries' interest.

"The recent positive outcome around the lifting of compliance-based suspensions on Australian meat establishments reflects the high level of cooperation between our two countries to work through issues in a constructive and collaborative manner,” ​he said.

"Australia is committed to being a reliable supplier of wholesome and safe meat to China and we have reconfirmed this commitment through the recent implementation of enhanced verification and audit procedures, which were developed in consultation with industry.

"Both countries also agreed to work closely to ensure the implementation of the Joint Statement signed earlier in the year, which includes expanded chilled meat access to China.”

In 2016, Australian beef exports to China totalled 98,440 tonnes, worth $670.4m. Australia is one of China's major beef suppliers with 22% of the import market.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will remove tariffs of up to 25% on beef by 1 January 2024 and tariffs of up to 23% on sheep meat by 1 January 2023.

China also recently registered five Australian infant formula sites and approved five more meat establishments.

"This is welcome news for both our dairy and meat industries, which provide significant benefits and support for our economy and communities across the nation​,” said Hartsuyker.

"China is one of our most important agricultural trading partners and we highly value the trade relationship between our countries. We are committed to working with China to continue supporting their domestic food safety."

China is Australia's largest market for dairy with $783m worth of product exported to the country in 2016.

Under ChAFTA the 15% tariff on infant formula exports will be eliminated by 1 January 2019.

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