Forget spiders and brown snakes, one of the biggest dangers of the Australian summer is sitting on your plate.
With temperatures rising and running well into the night, the risk of food spoilage is often dismissed. After all, no one jumps at the task of storing the leftovers away sensibly when they’ve got a belly full of skewers and salad at the backyard barbecue. Instead, we often leave the trays and plates sitting out for hours before even thinking about popping them into the fridge.
Each year, millions of Aussies get severely ill from food poisoning so it’s no wonder why it’s so important to ensure we stay ahead of the curb when it comes to safely storing and consuming our food. Most of the time, we overestimate how long our food can safely sit out – especially during the warmer months.
Here are a few quick lessons in food safety to help keep your delicious dishes edible throughout summer.
Mind your sauces and marinades
If you love basting on the barbecue, don’t use the same marinade the meat was sitting it – try to use a fresh batch of sauce instead. This will prevent bacteria found in raw meat from being cross contaminated onto the cooked meat.
Don’t leave food out too long
You shouldn’t leave food sitting out for more than two hours – the bacteria and toxins released can’t always be killed when reheated. So, at your next barbecue, try to pack leftover food away in the fridge or make take home packs for your guests right after everyone finishes eating.
Keep the lids on
If you enjoy a cold beverage, always put the lids back on the bottle after opening them to avoid flies and other insects from spreading germs into the openings – or even falling into the contents of the bottle. The last thing you want is to take a sip of your lemonade and end up swallowing a fly!
Keep your groceries cool
When you do your weekly shop at the supermarket, make sure you keep your food items cool on the ride home – and get perishable items to the fridge as quickly as possible. Your boot is usually the hottest place in your car, yet it’s the most commonly used compartment to transport groceries. On particularly hot days, pack your groceries into the back seat and turn on the air conditioning. Otherwise, you can always store them in a cooler bag for the trip home.
Keep your food hot while waiting for guests
Are guests late to the party but you’ve already cooked the food? No worries. Keep it warm (and safe to eat) by popping it into the oven at 140 degrees. This won’t overcook the food, but it will keep it fresh.
Careful with the condiments
Avoid leaving condiments like tomato sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise out in the sun while you're waiting for the food to cook. Bring them out only when the food is served and ready to eat, and pop them away as soon as they’re no longer needed.
Mouldy cheese: is it safe to eat?
Many people wrongly believe that it’s OK to eat cheese that’s grown mould as long as the mould portion is cut away. When in reality, mould spores can penetrate more deeply than many realise. Unless you’re talking about a cheese variety where mould is part of the mix naturally – like blue cheese or gorgonzola – cheese that’s grown mould should be sent straight to the bin, not to your mouth.
How long is too long?
It might be tempting to eat mum’s leftover lasagne but if it’s been in the fridge for longer than three days it’s probably best to bin it. Taking a chance on eating food that’s been left in the fridge for too long can spur on food poisoning and all sorts of bacterial infections that can upset your stomach.
Did you know?
With NRMA Content Insurance, if your fridge stops working after a covered event, we foot the cost of spoiled food and prescription medicine.