While our political leaders criss-cross the country, shaking hands with everyone they see, the Food Safety Information Council has a word of warning. In a press release this morning, the council says “experts warn those on election trail to avoid winter gastro by having clean hands”. While we know politicians love to claim their opponents are washing their hands of particular issues, apparently they need to actually get some soap and warm water to make sure it’s done effectively:

“Council Chair, Rachelle Williams, said that norovirus gastro outbreaks tend to be more common during the winter months especially during June and July when the election campaign is being run.

‘Norovirus outbreaks are common where people are in close spaces, such as when travelling and at community events. Once norovirus is contracted, a single infected person can easily spread gastro to many others especially by handshaking.’

‘In March this year more than 70 people got norovirus at a political event in Nebraska, USA and health authorities attributed its spread to handshaking.’

But of course the council isn’t just about making sure our pollies don’t get a case of the runs — this isn’t free advice:

“Now politicians have our advice on how to safely shake hands, we are calling on the Turnbull Government to commit to restoring our Federal funding which was cut by the Abbott Government in 2014.

“We are a health promotion charity and have had bipartisan support since the early 2000s through a Government grant. Our important role in reducing the risk of gastro and food poisoning in the community has been recognized by the Federal Government’s own research. So it was disappointing to hear from Food Minister Fiona Nash, prior to the election being called, that our funding wouldn’t be restored.’

“There have been major food poisoning outbreaks in the last 18 months linked to imported frozen berries, unpasteurized milk, lettuce, bean sprouts and raw eggs.  This puts a huge drain on our health services which our educational work can easily reduce.

“Without further funding we will have to close our telephone advisory service this month and it looks unlikely that we will be able to run the 20th Australian Food Safety Week in November 2016.”

The Food Safety Council is running a crowdfunding campaign to make up their loss of government funding. Unfortunately we need to use our dirty keyboards and phones to support it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey