Back in the office today? Go check the fridge. It’s fairly likely to at least have a carton of milk that expired on Boxing Day.
Apparently this is less than ideal, and the Food Safety Information Council is urging workers and employers to avoid food poisoning by taking care of “that much neglected workplace kitchen”.
There are an estimated 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, and Food Safety Information Council spokesperson Lydia Buchtmann says cases of gastro can spread quickly throughout a workplace once people get sick.
Here are her six simple tips to reduce the risk:
1. Always wash your hands (or use an alcohol gel or wipe if working outdoors) before touching food. Employers should ensure handwashing soap and drying facilities are available in kitchens and bathrooms and regularly replenished.
2. Store your lunch in the fridge (or in a cooler with ice bricks if you work outside) until lunchtime.
3. Get a fridge thermometer to make sure the work fridge is running at 5°C or below and clean out the fridge completely on a regular basis to get rid of those forgotten lunches.
4. Set up a roster to clean bench tops and ensure that dishcloths, sponges, brushes and tea towels are clean and replaced regularly.
5. Wash up your own dishes or put them in the dishwasher if there is one. Put on the dishwasher when it is full and empty it when finished (yes, that is everyone’s job!)
6. If you have gastro, don’t go to work and avoid handling food for others until 48 hours after symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea stop. If food poisoning symptoms persist, visit a doctor.
Finally, Buchtmann says, stick up hand-washing reminders in both the kitchen and bathroom.
“You’ll find people will have fewer sick days.”