Rates of food-borne illness infections in Australia have almost halved since the lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic that began in March.

The Food Safety Information Council revealed that since the COVID-19 shutdown started, reported rates of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections per 100,000 people have declined compared to the past two years.

This shows the effectiveness of good handwashing, and that there has been less bulk catering as fewer people have been eating out or entertaining, according to the health promotion charity.

Cathy Moir, council chair, said in a normal year there are an estimated annual 4.1 million cases of food poisoning that result in 31,920 hospitalizations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.

“There have been drops in other infectious diseases such as influenza and measles during this period which shows how effective good handwashing and social distancing can be in controlling infectious diseases. Also, food poisoning is more commonly identified when food is prepared in bulk and there has been less entertaining and eating out with larger groups of people during the lockdown,” she said.

“But we mustn’t become complacent – our 2019 handwashing study found 29 percent of Australians said they didn’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet and more than a third admit they don’t always wash their hands before touching food. Now we have better handwashing as a result of COVID-19 we urge people to continue to wash their hands often even after the pandemic ends.”