How to avoid food poisoning

Food Poisoning in Children Prevention

What is food poisoning, and how can we minimise the risks to our whānau? Food poisoning is a real public health issue in Aotearoa New Zealand. There are estimated to be 200,000 cases of food poisoning annually, with 40% of these cases coming from food, or kai, at home.

Food poisoning occurs anytime from a few hours to a few days after eating bad kai. Symptoms can often last for 24-48 hours before they begin to settle down. Food poisoning symptoms include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Allergic reactions
  • Headache
  • Stomach cramps or pains
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle or joint aches

Symptoms of food poisoning can be worse in pēpē, or a baby, than in older tamariki.

Although food poisoning often doesn’t require medical attention, you should see your GP if your child has diarrhoea that lasts multiple days or has bloody diarrhoea.

Additionally, we recommend that you take your child to an emergency room if they:

  • Can’t keep any fluids down with severe stomach pain and vomiting.
  • Are very dehydrated with minimal urination, weight loss, fatigue, and extreme thirst.
  • Are extremely unwell.
  • Have food poisoning symptoms and is under the age of one.

Tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning

Now that we know what food poisoning is, we will discuss ways we can look after our kai to protect our tamariki.

Fridges

As we store so much of our fresh food in the pouaka makariri or fridge, it is important we maintain safe and healthy practices. Below is a checklist of tips for your pouaka makariri to minimise the risk of food poisoning:

  • Keep your fridge temperature between 2°C and 4°C.
  • Replace old or poor seals on doors.
  • Keep raw meat in the chiller or on the bottom shelf, away from other fresh foods.
  • Defrost frozen food in the fridge instead of the bench, but avoid getting thaw drips on other foods.
  • Keep food in the fridge covered in cling film or in containers with lids.
  • Clean your fridge regularly.

School lunches

Making healthy and delicious kai for tamariki to take to school is a great way to ensure they get the nutrition they need to learn and play. Below are some tips to make sure their food stays healthy for them to eat:

  • If you are making lunches the night before, store it in the fridge
  • Sandwiches with meat, fish, eggs, or mayo should be in an insulated lunch box.
  • In the warmer months, freeze a drink bottle to pack in their lunchbox. It will help keep things cool and defrost before lunch, giving your child a nice refreshing drink.

Cooking tips

When preparing kai, there are steps to ensure we don't contaminate our food and cause food poisoning for our whānau. Follow these tips below:

  • Use separate utensils for raw meat and fish than for cooked and ready-to-eat foods. This includes chopping boards, knives, and spatulas. If you don’t use different utensils, ensure you clean them thoroughly between tasks.
  • Treat all raw chicken as if it carries food poisoning bacteria. Keep it wrapped and separate in the fridge. Wash knives, chopping boards, and anything it touches after use. Even one drop of raw chicken juice can make you sick.

Leftovers

Food waste is a major problem in our world, so keeping leftovers is a great idea. However, to ensure leftovers are safe to eat, follow these tips:

  • Leftovers should only stay in the fridge for 2-3 days before being eaten or thrown out.
  • After defrosting, don’t refreeze leftovers a second time
  • Reheat the food until it is steaming hot inside—and don’t reheat it a second time.
  • Your nose knows—if the food in your fridge smells bad, it means it has gone off.