A few years back we got one of those 2am phone calls from Thailand from one of the friends our son Sean was traveling with. There was a note of panic in their voice as they told us that Sean had some kind of food poisoning and was very, very sick. They were wondering if they needed to take him to hospital.
My ever-practical husband asked them to try to pull up the skin on Sean's arm to see if the flesh stayed up when they let go – it's a sure sign of major dehydration. The answer was yes, so they rushed him to hospital. He was delirious when he arrived and close to organ failure. He spent 10 days in hospital on a drip. Luckily, he came right but if he hadn’t got to hospital he could've died.
It’s easy to think you only get sick in foreign countries, but even here in New Zealand we need to be really careful about campylobacter. It's a very nasty bacteria that can make you very sick and even kill you.
About half of campylobacter cases occur from food prepared at home. This summer you can make sure no one gets sick in your home by adhering to some basic food hygiene principles and knowing a few key pointers. Just as 'Slip, Slop, Slap' has become a motto to keep our skin safe in the sun, we need to make 'Clean, Cook, Chill – Don't Get Ill' our food safety mantra to reduce the chances of campylobacter, especially over the summer months, when we're more likely to be entertaining, camping, cooking outside and barbecuing.
Before you prepare food and after handling raw meat:
- Wash your hands, chopping boards, dishes and utensils (such as knives) in hot soapy water
- Dry them properly – preferably air dry, not with a towel
Cook food thoroughly:
- Cook meat and poultry all the way through so that the juices run clear, especially chicken and mince
- If reheating food, reheat until hot. Warm does not kill bacteria. Hot does
To stop bacteria growing in your food:
- Cover food and keep it in the fridge
- Keep cooked and raw food separate
- Don’t leave food out. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours or bin them
- If in doubt – throw it out!
To find out more about food safety visit foodsafety.govt.nz/ccc