No more dodgy food

If food isn’t handled, cooked or stored properly, it can make you sick. This can mean vomiting, diarrhoea and/or stomach pain. For some people who have a chronic illness, food poisoning can be very dangerous. Food poisoning happens when bacteria (germs) grow and reproduce in food. This happens most often when the temperature of food is neither very hot nor very cold (between 5 degrees celcius and 60 degrees celcius [°C]). Food poisoning can be prevented by handling, cooking and storing food in ways that avoid this temperature ‘danger zone’.

This fact sheet has been developed by Youthblock Youth Health Service, Sydney Local Health District for the Yhunger program.

Food safety when shopping

Don’t buy:

  • dented, swollen or leaking cans or containers, or those with damaged packaging
  • cracked or dirty eggs
  • chilled or frozen foods left out of the freezer, or that are starting to thaw
  • foods with mould
  • ready to eat foods left uncovered on counters
  • takeaway hot foods that are not steaming hot
  • refrigerated foods that don’t feel cold.

Getting food home

  • On the way home from shopping, put all the cold foods together to help them stay cold.
  • Take your shopping home as soon as you can. Put cold things in the fridge immediately.
  • For trips longer than 30 minutes, or on very hot days, put chilled or frozen foods in an insulated bag to keep cold.

Food safety when cooking

Cooking food properly is a way to keep it safe.

  • Wash and dry hands before cooking and eating.
  • Wipe down the bench before beginning to cook.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit before cooking, preparing and/or eating.
  • Chop vegetables before meat. If you use the same knife and chopping block for vegetables and meat, wash them before you cut the meat.
  • Cook mince, sausages and chicken right through to the centre. You should not be able to see any light pink meat and juices should be clear.
  • When cooking in the micro-wave, make sure food is cooked all the way through. Cut food into even sized pieces, and cover with microwave-safe cover.
  • Keep hot foods steaming hot, and cold foods cold.
  • Wash cooking equipment and dishes with hot water and detergent, and use clean sponges, dishcloths and tea towels.


  • Thaw frozen food on the bench instead of the fridge.
  • Leave leftovers on the bench instead of the fridge.
  • Leave food that needs to be in the fridge too long on the bench.
  • Use the same plate for cooked and uncooked meats.

Check the date on packages

  • ‘Use by’ dates – means it’s not safe to eat the food after the ‘use by’ date.
  • ‘Best before’ dates – means it’s best to eat this food before the date on the product. The food might still be safe, but may have lost some of its quality and nutritional value.

High risk foods

Take extra care when storing these foods when they are raw, and after they have been cooked:

  • meat, chicken and turkey
  • processed/deli meats like turkey and ham
  • eggs
  • seafood
  • cooked pasta and cooked rice
  • pre-made foods like coleslaw and pasta salads
  • milk and yoghurt.

Storing and using leftovers

  • Put cooked leftovers in containers and store in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Reheat food thoroughly until hot and steaming. Bring soups, casseroles and sauces to the boil (bubbling).
  • If you don’t eat food straight after it’s been cooked, eat it within 2 hours.
  • If food has been cooked but not eaten for 4 hours – THROW IT OUT!
  • Don’t refreeze food that has been already been thawed.