Christmas revellers should stay vigilant when it comes to handling food this festive season, as a combination of heat, cooking, and eating outside risks a hive of foodborne bacteria, experts say.
Australian National University researcher, Dr Rhiannon Wallace, said hot weather - which Canberra was forecast to see into the new year - provided a breeding ground for food poisoning.
While it was tempting to eat Christmas lunch and then graze on the leftovers for hours, it was important to avoid leaving food out, particularly meat.
"On a hot summer day, food should not be left out for more than an hour," Dr Wallace said.
"Store the leftovers in the fridge and eat them within four days - or better yet, freeze them if possible.
"An overstocked fridge can stop hot foods from cooling properly."
Dr Wallace said people should be aware of the foods most commonly associated with microbial contamination, including raw eggs, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, sprouts, and under-cooked meat.
It was important to separate raw food from cooked food, and use separate knives and chopping boards. Raw meat and seafood should be stored at the bottom of the fridge, Dr Wallace said.
Bacterial pathogens would also multiply in a "danger zone" of between 4 and 60 degrees.
"Keep hot food hot and cold food cold, and make sure raw meat and poultry is cooked to a safe internal temperature," Dr Wallace said.
Australian National University researcher, Dr Ben Polkinghorne, said children under five, pregnant women, and people over 65 are most susceptible to contracting food poising over the "high-risk" Christmas period.
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. "More severe complications are possible, but much less common," Dr Polkinghorne said.
Nearly one-third of all foodborne outbreaks in Australia happen during summer.