Viruses and bacterial illnesses are often associated with the winter season, but there are germs around that thrive in the heat and can cause summer illness in offices around Australia. Food poisoning in particular can be a problem during the summer, and can be spread not only through contaminated food, but also through person-to-person contact or from touching contaminated surfaces.
Food poisoning statistics and facts
There are around 30,000 notifications of food poisoning to the Department of Health each year in Australia, and that’s not including those that are not reported! While these do not only happen during summer, bacteria grows far more quickly in warm conditions, making summer potentially more risky. The types of bacteria include:
- Campylobacter – illness can occur from unpasteurised milk and undercooked poultry.
- Salmonella – sources include undercooked poultry, raw eggs, and raw milk and cheeses.
- E.coli – associated with water, unpasteurised juices, raw cheese, salads, and meat products.
- Clostridium Botulinum – this bacterium produces a toxin that can cause illness although this is quite rare. It is mainly associated with canned foods and some vegetable oils.
- Staphylococcus – this germ produces a heat-stable toxin and grows in custards, cream and processed meats.
Foodborne illness symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, and fever. It can also result in hospitalisations and deaths in severe cases.
Not all cases are due to ingesting contaminated food however. According to the Department of Health, person-to-person transmission accounts for the majority (around 80%) of outbreaks.
The combination of anticipated summer closures and Christmas means that many workplaces put on barbecues, picnics and Christmas parties during November and December, many of which might be held outdoors. This combination of summer heat and the great outdoors can create a high risk environment for food safety in workplaces.
Tips for reducing the risk in summer include:
- When buying perishable food for the office party, refrigerate it as soon as possible to prevent spoilage.
- If cooking frozen food, thaw it correctly – i.e. either slowly in the fridge or quickly in the microwave. If cooking packet frozen food, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Make sure not to overfill the fridge beyond its capacity.
- If you hold an outdoor picnic or party, don’t leave food sitting in the sun for any length of time.
- At barbecues, make sure to cook raw food properly, particularly poultry which should have no trace of pink.
- Store leftovers quickly and safely, and toss them out if not eaten quickly.
People who are infected by foodborne illness can transmit it to others through food handling, and also by not washing and drying their hands properly and then touching surfaces around the office, particularly in the office kitchen. This means that handwashing should be a priority before handling food, and also that professional office cleaning services should be used to keep your workplace clean, hygienic and safe.
Thorough daily office cleaning also helps reduce the risk of other illnesses being transmitted to your staff during the summer, and throughout the year. Contact us at JAN-PRO if you would like a quote on our services.