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Winter warmers – food poisoning risk of bulk cooking soups, casseroles and stews 

While most people associate food poisoning with hot summers the Food Safety Information Council has put out a reminder about the winter risk from cooking in bulk.

Rachelle Williams, Council Chair, said that this is a great time of year to cook ‘winter warmers’ such as soups, casseroles and stews, or even large amounts of rice and pasta, but if we don’t handle them properly then they can be a food safety risk.

‘Cooking in bulk is cost effective, saves time and reduces food waste. However, we need to be extra careful handling these large amounts of food because, if they are left to cool slowly, bacteria can grow and produce dangerous toxins that won’t be destroyed by further cooking,’ Ms Williams said.

‘The main thing to remember is to divide any food that you aren’t going to eat immediately into small portions about the size of a takeaway container. Do this as soon as the food has stopped steaming and refrigerate or freeze straight away. The food will cool quickest in small containers which will reduce the risk of the bacteria growing and producing toxins.

‘Refrigerated leftovers should be used or frozen within 2 to 3 days. They will keep several months in the freezer. When reheating food ensure that it is hot all the way through, follow any microwave prompts to stir it or leave it to stand and use a thermometer to ensure it is at least 75°C in the centre.

‘If you use a slow cooker always follow the instructions and make sure it keeps the food at a safe holding temperature of 60°C or above until you are ready to eat it.

‘Finally, don’t forget that gastro causing norovirus is also more common in cooler weather so if you or your children have gastro symptoms it is best to stay at home until symptoms have stopped so you don’t spread this virus around your workplace or school,’ Ms Williams concluded.

The Food Safety Information Council Ltd is Australia’s leading disseminator of consumer-targeted food safety information which aims to address the estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors on average each year.

Media contact: Lydia Buchtmann: T 0407 626 688

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