Advice on food safety issues

Community and Public Health no longer provides food safety services within Canterbury, South Canterbury and the West Coast.

Contact Women rinsing her hands in a kitchen sink. Source: Ministry for Primary Industries.the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 693 721 if you have questions about:

  • Food Complaints including foreign objects or undeclared allergens in food within our region;
  • Food Recalls;
  • Imported Food;
  • Food Safety Programmes; and
  • Food Labelling.

Community and Public Health still deals with food poisoning and food-borne illness.

Contact an Environmental Health Officer at your local council if you want to report a ‘dirty’ food premise or unhygienic practices of food handlers.

Consumers warned not to eat raw mussels

Ministry for Primary Industries media release: 24th March 2021

Image with text: don't eat raw or undercooked mussels. New Zealand Food Safety is advising people to stay safe from food poisoning by cooking mussels thoroughly before eating them.

Director of food regulation at New Zealand Food Safety Dr Paul Dansted, says Vibrio parahaemolyticus are naturally occurring bacteria that are found in seawater and occur when warmer temperatures during summer are favourable for growth.

“We expect to see an increase in incidence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in the warmer months. However, statistics from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) show a recent spike in cases, with 22 since the beginning of the year.”

Symptoms of Vibrio parahaemolyticus may include watery or bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and/or headache. The consequences can be more serious for people with weakened immunity, the young, the elderly and frail, and pregnant women.

“As undercooked mussels can be a risk factor, it’s important to take care with their preparation. To be safe to eat, thoroughly cook mussels until piping hot (70°C). This will ensure that any Vibrio parahaemolyticus present in the mussels will be destroyed.”

“One good way to know when mussels are fully cooked is that their shells pop open when boiled or steamed, and the mussel inside is firm to the touch.”

Take care when handling, preparing and consuming mussels.

Phone Healthline for advice if you feel sick on 0800 61 11 16 or seek medical attention immediately. If possible, store and refrigerate any leftover food for testing.

“It is raw mussels that we are advising against consuming. They are not the mussels that can be bought in plastic pottles. Those mussels are cooked and marinated and are not affected,” Dr Dansted says.

Food safety guidance for pregnant women

Your immunity levels are lower than usual when you are pregnant. So you’re more at risk of getting food poisoning or other diseases from food.

Eating safely when you are pregnant will help protect you and your developing baby’s health. Foodborne illness can make you and your baby unwell, and in extreme cases can cause:

  • serious illness;
  • premature birth;
  • stillbirth; or
  • the death of newborn babies.

Some high-risk foods should be avoided while you’re pregnant such as raw milk or dairy products. Other foods need to be prepared carefully to reduce harmful bacteria, such as processed meats or seafood.

It is also important to follow basic food safety guidelines when preparing and storing food. This helps prevent harmful bacteria from getting in your food.



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


For further information, contact:

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
0800 693 721

Understanding the risks of raw milk

Raw milk has not been heat treated to kill harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria and toxin-producing strains of E. coli.

There’s no way to tell by taste, sight or smell if raw milk will make you sick.

People most likely to get sick from drinking raw unpasteurised milk are young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

Page last updated: 01/06/2021

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