CANBERRA restaurants were the source of more than a quarter of this year's salmonella infections, and as the high-risk summer period approaches ACT Health is urging food handlers to brush up on correct cooking and food storage techniques.
So far this year, 211 cases have been reported to ACT Health with 59 of those traced back to cafes and restaurants. Of those cases, 15 required hospitalisation.
Last year there were 161 cases of non-typhoidal salmonella recorded in the ACT.
ACT chief health officer Paul Kelly said skyrocketing infection rates were almost always traced to raw eggs and chicken.
''It's a 30 per cent increase between 2011 and 2012, so we have increased a lot in the past couple of years and that is due partly to quite large outbreaks at food premises,'' Dr Kelly said.
Salmonellosis, an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella, can cause patients to become seriously ill with symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
In serious cases the bacteria enter the blood stream and can cause pneumonia, septic arthritis and meningitis.
Across Australia salmonella cases have doubled in the past decade, with 6185 notifications in 2000 and 12,276 last year.
Dr Kelly said salmonella was a costly illness that could be avoided.
''Most people who get exposed get a bit of minor gastro, but the ones at the severe end can end up in hospital for weeks. People can die,'' he said.
He said most people are sick for a week, and people who handle food should not return to work for three days after diarrhoea has stopped.
According to the most recent OzFoodNet annual report, food-borne illnesses cost $1.2 billion each year.
''Salmonella can be completely got rid of with cooking, even if salmonella is in eggs and chicken,'' Dr Kelly said.
He said cross-contamination was common at private parties and barbecues.
''Salmonella is quite seasonal. We very rarely get any in winter, it's usually around in the summer period … someone makes chicken kebabs and then uses the same knife to cut the steak.
''Over a 10-year period people are eating out more, and perhaps people are becoming more adventurous in their food choices. We found a 30 per cent increase in one year, but you don't have that sort of societal change that quickly.''
Ways to avoid food poisoning
■ Do not buy cracked eggs
■ Wash hands
■ Cook food properly
■ Be aware of cross contamination - separate raw and cooked ingredients
Foods with raw eggs that have led to outbreaks in the ACT:
■ Homemade mayonnaise
■ Hollandaise sauce