January 12, 2018
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It’s a windy cold winter’s day and roast chicken and vegies with gravy is what you’ve been dreaming of all afternoon, ever since your partner called to share what was planned for dinner tonight. The aromas as you walk through the front door are what dreams are made of. As you fall asleep that night, you can still remember that first juicy bite. The last thing you expected was to be taken to hospital at 3am vomiting uncontrollably!

You were just another of the 5.4 million cases of food poisoning on average which occur each year in Australia (including 120 deaths). This results in 2.1 million days of lost work each year at an estimated annual cost of $1.25 billion. A large majority of these cases of foodborne illness involve Norovirus, E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella being the most common pathogens that cause foodborne illness in Australia.

Research into Campylobacter food poisoning in particular found that using disinfectant wipes reduced the risk by up to 99.2% after preparing poultry in the kitchen.

Dr Gerardo Lopez and his colleagues at the University of Arizona in the USA had their work published in the Society for Applied Microbiology's Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Using antibacterial wipes on typical counter top materials - granite, laminate, and ceramic tile – was used to see if they reduce the risk of the cook and their family or guests ingesting harmful bacteria.

The results from Dr Lopez's experiments, along with information from other studies that examine the transfer of bacteria from food, to surfaces and hands, and ultimately to the mouth, were fed into a computer to calculate the potential reduction in risk of infection from using disinfectant wipes. The result was a reduction in the annual risk of Campylobacter jejuni infection of up to 99.2%, reducing the risk from 2:10 to 2:1000.

Dr Lopez said "The scary thing about Campylobacter is that you really don't need to ingest that many bacteria to get a nasty illness, so we have to wipe clean our kitchen surfaces and wash our hands after preparing poultry."

UK consumers have recently heard that it is more likely than not that raw poultry bought from the supermarket will have been contaminated with Campylobacter. Australian consumers would be wise to treat Australian poultry with similar precaution.  

Campylobacter infections causing vomiting and diarrhea and are common. They can be especially dangerous for young children, older people, and those with a compromised immune system.

This new research suggests that cleaning up with a disinfectant wipe straight after unwrapping and/or preparing poultry meat could further protect people from infection. Discarding all wrapping and shopping bags that have had contact with poultry or meet is also strongly recommended. 

"For the greatest protection, wipes need to be used to disinfect all surfaces that might have been splashed or sprayed - that might include the sink and taps, counter tops, and stove top.”

It can even make a difference just to stop using the same cloth, sponge, or towel for all purposes and instead use a different disposable wipe or paper towel for each clean-up.

Help keep your family and friends well by sharing this article and these 6 simple reminder tips for when preparing raw poultry and meat:

  1. Do not wash raw poultry before cooking as this will spread any bacteria throughout your kitchen. You can mop up any excess moisture with paper towel
  2. Always wash and dry hands and clean surfaces with disinfectant wipes after contact with raw poultry.
  3. Defrost poultry in the fridge in a container which prevents juices dripping on other food.
  4. Make sure the raw poultry juices do not contaminate other food, especially food like desserts or salads that won’t be cooked again.
  5. Always use clean plates and utensils and wash and dry thoroughly between using for raw and cooked poultry. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw poultry.
  6. Also cook any poultry meat to 74°C using a meat thermometer in the thickest part or until the juices run clear and are no longer pink. Make sure frozen poultry is defrosted right through to the centre before cooking.

- Good Health Care, Food Safety Information Council