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Australians 'knowingly risk food poisoning' as nation lacks education

More than half (51 per cent) of Australians do not know enough about food temperature danger zones, which puts them at risk of food poisoning, according to a new report by Thermos Australia.

The study revealed that a staggering 42 per cent admitted that although they had heard of food danger zones they did not know a lot about them, while an additional 9 per cent of people confessed to not being aware of them at all.

Food temperature danger zone

A food temperature danger zone is the temperature range in which food-borne bacteria can grow. Food is typically at risk of such bacteria when it sits for more than two hours between the temperatures of five to 60 degrees Celsius.

More than a third (39 per cent) of Australians said they would willingly eat food that had been at risk of sitting in a food danger zone, if it had only been there for a little while, according to the study.

Risk of food poisoning

Paul Fitzgerald, Marketing Manager at Thermos Australia, said the research into Australia's attitudes towards food storage and safety "should serve as a stern warning to many who may unwillingly be sending their loved ones to work or school with a ticking food bomb."

Figures from the NSW Food Authority have showed that 5.4 million Australians, or almost one in four people experience food poisoning every year.

"Recent figures from the Food Safety Information Council also showed that food poisoning results, on average, in 120 deaths, 1.2 million doctor visits, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year – collectively estimated to cost the economy a staggering annual bill of $1.25 billion," Fitzgerald said.

"Storing food at the correct temperature is critical to avoiding foodborne bacteria, as some of the most common foods we eat at lunch can reach danger zones within two hours."

"These statistics are extremely concerning, as they only take into consideration recorded incidents," Fitzgerald said. 

Lunch brought from home not refrigerated

The Thermos study also showed that two thirds of Australians typically bring lunch from home, and that 13 per cent admitted they commonly eat food for lunch that's has been unrefrigerated since they left home in the morning (a time period commonly between four to six hours).

"Regardless of where you are, safe food practices when out-and-about will help mitigate the risk of food poisoning, which can be horrible in the best of cases," Fitzgerald said.

Food manufacturers could play larger role in food safety education

When it comes to food danger zone education, Australian parents were the number one source of information, with 74 per cent of Australians learning about safe practices from their parents.

Many Australians (51 per cent) also felt that food manufacturers should play a greater role in educating consumers about temperature zones and dangerous bacteria. Almost half the nation (48 per cent) also felt that schools, governments, day care centres, and workplaces have a responsibility in educating people on safe food practices.

"While the community has a role to play in safe food practices, at end of the day it is our responsibility to seek-out information and play a proactive role in educating our families and loved ones," Fitzgerald said.

"The onus falls on us to make smarter decisions.

"Parents have a responsibility to their children to teach them about safe food practices, however it appears many might unknowingly be sending their kids to school with food that's dangerous to consume.

"We can’t shift the blame to someone else. We’re all individually responsible for what we put in our mouth, and making sure that the food we eat is stored, prepared, and purchased correctly is our duty of care to those we look after.

"From the playground, to the workplace and supermarket there is one thing that's clear – we need to be speaking about the safety of food more openly," Fitzgerald said.