Retirement Life
7 February 2024

Five summer food safety tips


While the summer holiday period has come to an end for many, there are still plenty of warm days ahead to enjoy alfresco picnics and barbecues with family and friends. Just remember that balmy temperatures can be a risky ingredient when it comes to food prep and storage. 


New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) Deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle says they want everyone to enjoy their summer, rather than getting sick from the food they eat.


“The most common foodborne illnesses in New Zealand are campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and yersiniosis. They all have really nasty symptoms and can result in days of illness. For people who are elderly, very young, immunocompromised, or pregnant, the complications can be severe and, in rare cases, fatal,” he says.


Fortunately, Mr Arbuckle says there are a few simple things we can do to help protect ourselves and our loved ones.


“To help you get the most out of your summer, we’re sharing our top five tips for good food safety practices.”


Wash your hands

This is number one. Washing your hands is the first line of defence and one of the best ways to prevent harmful bacteria spreading to your food. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, and dry them well before handing food, and always wash them after handling raw meat and poultry (like chicken and eggs), going to the toilet, touching pets or animals, gardening, or any other activity that makes your hands unclean.


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On the go with food? Chill it

Store foods like salads, meats and cheeses in a chilly bag or bin with ice packs until needed. Cover and chill your food until you cook it – and chill any leftovers as soon as possible too. If you have long travel times after shopping or won’t be going home straight away, have a chilly bag or bin with ice packs in your car to transport chilled or frozen foods, and transfer them to the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.


Don’t contaminate your plate – handle raw chicken safely

Raw chicken is a high-risk zone for campylobacter bacteria. Avoid washing raw chicken before preparing it as this can spread bacteria in the kitchen – rather, pat chicken dry with a paper towel and put the towel in the bin. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken. Don’t let raw chicken or its juices touch ready-to-eat foods, and make sure you cook your chicken thoroughly.


Barbeque like a pro

Use separate utensils, chopping boards and plates for raw and cooked meat, and barbecue meat until it is more than 75°C all the way through. Turn chicken often so it cooks evenly. Make sure your barbecue and cooking tools have been cleaned with soap and water before using. Marinate meat in a covered container in the fridge. Keep raw meat and cooked food or ready-to-eat foods (like salads) separate.


Check before you collect shellfish

NZFS issues public health warnings when there are unsafe shellfish biotoxin levels, advising the public not to gather or consume shellfish. Cooking does not kill the toxins and eating toxic shellfish can make you very sick, or even be deadly.


Meanwhile, it’s crucial you thoroughly cook any shellfish you do collect from safe areas due to risks around Vibrio bacteria, which can cause illnesses like gastroenteritis, blood poisoning and wound infections. It’s especially important for those with underlying health conditions, pregnant and older people, and younger children to avoid eating raw shellfish.


Be alert

If you’re a keen ocean forager, stay informed by subscribing to NZFS shellfish biotoxin alerts. You can also download and check the NZ Fishing Rules App and look out for signage at your local beach.

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It’s a good idea to also sign up for NZFS food recall alerts to stay on top of any recalled food products – this is particularly important for people with food allergies.


Photo of Vanessa Glennie
Written by:

Vanessa Glennie

Vanessa is Head of Communications at Lifetime Retirement Income. She’s an experienced investment writer, having spent more than a decade writing about financial markets in the global fund management industry.

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