3 myths about food poisoning

Every year one million Australians have to visit a doctor with food poisoning, 32 000 end up in the hospital, and 86 people die. Sort the fact from the fiction to avoid being a new statistic.


Only food that smells or tastes off can make me sick

Fact: The organisms that cause food poisoning are not the same as the ones that cause food ageing and spoilage. They can exist together, but not necessarily.

Unfortunately for us, most food poisoning bacteria do not cause food to look, smell or taste ‘bad’. Food that appears normal in appearance, taste and odour can have enough harmful bugs to make you ill. If in doubt, throw it out.


You’re only at risk of food poisoning if you eat meat.

Fact: It’s easy to thoroughly cook the snags on the barbie, but overlook the danger lurking in the rice salad that’s been out all afternoon.

If you don’t store rice in the fridge after cooking, it can make you sick. The culprit is the bacteria Bacillus cereus, commonly found in soil, which produces toxins that will give you a mild vomiting illness shortly after ingestion. These toxins cannot be destroyed by heat and will multiply if left out of the fridge.

If you're not going to eat rice straight after you've cooked it, then you must store it in the fridge – as soon as possible, but definitely within three to four hours. Refrigeration won't kill the bacteria but it will slow down its growth – any uneaten rice should be thrown out after three days in the fridge.


If you get food poisoning, you can blame the last thing you ate.

Fact: The last meal you ate may indeed have made you sick.

But it’s also possible that the illness was due to the food eaten much earlier.

Depending on the specific bugs that caused the illness, symptoms can take from three hours to three days to appear. Vomiting is usually a much quicker reaction than diarrhoea.

As bugs need time to multiply to harmful levels and travel through the digestive system if you experience diarrhoea in less than four hours from eating, it is not likely to have been caused by the recent meal, so consider the previous meal or even food you ate the day before at your mate’s barbeque.

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