Food Safety & Hygiene
Environmental Health Services work with local food businesses and community groups who produce food for sale or distribution to ensure compliance with current food legislation. In doing so, we:
Carry out unannounced food hygiene assessments of all food businesses on a regular basis;
Collect evidence of breaches of food legislation and instigate legal action where necessary;
Sample locally produced foods and compare results to National Standards;
Investigate complaints about food and food handling practices;
Provide Safe Food Handler Training Sessions for food handlers - these sessions provide a refresher in the basics of essential food hygiene skills and knowledge; and
Provide support to local food businesses implementing the Australian Institute of Environmental Health FoodSafe Food Handler Training Program, 2nd Ed.
Food poisoning occurs when you have consumed food or drink that has been contaminated by harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins. It can produce symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhoea and fever. In many cases the effects of food borne illness are only mild but sometimes the symptoms can lead to serious illness. In rare cases, food borne illness can result in long-term health problems and even death. Some people are extremely vulnerable no matter what type of pathogen is involved. These include:
Some people may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful organisms while others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands. We often believe that it was the last meal we ate that made us sick. Although this can be the case, it is often unlikely. The most common types of food poisoning bacteria take around 2-5 days to multiply to a level that will cause symptoms, and sometimes up to 10 days. It is therefore more likely to be a meal eaten several days before that actually made you ill. It is not always a food that will produce vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms as bacteria may also have been consumed from a water source or originated from a contaminated surface.
What do I do if I have food poisoning?
See your GP immediately and provide a stool sample to ascertain what has caused your illness. If you have some of the food that you think has caused the symptoms left over, put it in the freezer as we may be able to test it for food poisoning bacteria and, if you have a receipt for the food, keep that too. If you suspect food purchased within the Shire of Esperance is the suspect, contact the Shire immediately on (08) 9071 0676. The more information you can provide us with the better, so note down all the details surrounding the purchase of the food, time eaten, symptoms, whether or not any others are affected, where you purchased the food and if you reported your illness to the food business.
The Environmental Health Officer dealing with your request may send any remaining food for analysis and visit the food business to carry out an investigation. Laboratory results for food analysis take between 5-14 days to be finalized.
For further information please refer to the Department of Health website.
Food Hygiene and Safety in Your Home
Remember the following tips when you are preparing food from home:
Wash your hands - the most important barrier to stop the transfer of germs and dirt from you to your food is washing your hands. Use warm water and soap and dry thoroughly;
Keep cold foods cold - that is 5°C or less, check with a fridge thermometer;
Keep hot foods hot - don't let hot food sit out at room temperature for extended periods of time. Time your cooking so hot food does not require re-heating. Hot foods must be maintained at 60°C or above to inhibit bacterial growth;
Keep raw & cooked foods separate - use separate utensils and chopping boards when preparing raw and cooked foods. Make sure that all foods are covered when stored, and always store raw food at the bottom of the fridge to prevent raw juices dripping on to cooked food;
When cooling cooked food, cool food within 2 hours from 60°C to 21°C and within a further 4 hours from 21°C to 5°C;
Keep your kitchen and utensils clean - keeping your kitchen clean will deter pests, as there is no food source for them. If you use baits around your kitchen, mark on your calendar when they need to be changed - the label on the packet will tell you this. Old baits may become a food source with dirt and dust building up inside the bait;
Defrost safely - when defrosting food, put it in the fridge overnight or use your microwave defrost setting; and
Don't cook for others if you are unwell - if you are experiencing food poisoning symptoms you could easily pass your germs on to others.