Staphylococcal aureus (Staph for short) is bacteria that lives on and in us. In fact, around 25% of people carry Staph on their skin or in their nose, though most of us have no ill effects from it. However, Staph is an sneaky bug. Under certain circumstances, it can exist on food or be spread onto food by people, where it can secrete toxins that cause painful food poisoning when consumed.
Food can easily be contaminated with Staph if people fail to practice good hand hygiene when preparing it. The types of foods most commonly associated with Staph food poisoning are those that are not refrigerated prior to consumption or not cooked after handling. Examples include:
- Ready-to-eat meats (including salty ones, like ham)
- Pastries containing creams and custards
- Sandwiches, particularly those made with ready-to-eat meat
- Unpasteurised milk and cheese products
Staph food poisoning symptoms can develop anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours after consumption of a contaminated food, but generally last no longer than 1 day. The illness cannot be passed from person to person.
It is possible to protect ourselves against Staph food poisoning by making sure that we:
- wash our hands well before preparing food, and in between touching raw foods and ready-to-eat foods
- practice good personal hygiene during food preparation by avoiding touching our noses and other parts of our bodies unnecessarily
- ensure that food is always well refrigerated, or if it is unable to be refrigerated, eaten soon after preparation
To learn more about Staphylococcal aureus, check out this Infographic:
Reduce Your Risk
- Do not prepare food if you are sick with diarrhoea or vomiting, or have a nose or eye infection
- Always wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food
- Wear gloves while preparing food if you have wounds or infections on your hands or wrists