Ten top tips for festive food safety

Food safety experts at Aberdeen City Council are urging Christmas cooks to follow simple safety tips when preparing food at home over the festive season to ensure food poisoning is the last thing they receive.

Cooking for larger parties than normal, feeling under pressure to get everything ready on time, and not wanting to waste leftovers can all contribute to simple mistakes that can ruin any party.

Ten top tips:

1. Don’t wash your turkey

Washing raw turkey is unnecessary and can spread germs. Harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw meat and poultry onto worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Germs that cause food poisoning can linger for days in the sink. 45% of people significantly increase the risk of food poisoning by washing their turkeys before cooking them.

2. Make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly

Check your bird is steaming hot all the way through. Cut into the thickest part of the bird to check that none of the meat is pink and ensure that the juices which run out are clear. A temperature thermometer can be used to ensure the bird has reached 75°C or above at the thickest part. Pop up temperature thermometers can also be used.

3. Use leftovers safely

We all hate to waste food, so if you’ve stored cooked turkey in the fridge, eat it within two days. If you want to make your turkey leftovers last longer, put them in the freezer after cooling. Cooling should be done as quickly as possible. Portion up the food to aid cooling, and then store in the freezer.

4. Defrost your leftovers thoroughly

If you have frozen your leftovers to make them last even longer, defrost them thoroughly before reheating. Defrost them in the fridge overnight. Eat defrosted leftovers within 24-hours and do not refreeze. The only exception to refreeze is if you are defrosting raw food, which can be refrozen after it’s been cooked.

5. Use your leftovers creatively

Love food hate waste had some great suggestions to make the most of your leftovers. Visit them here: www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes

6. Keep it clean

Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meat or poultry. Make sure your worktops and utensils are clean and disinfected

7. Be fridge friendly

Check your fridge is at the right temperature [below 5°C] to stop germs from growing. Don’t pack the food too tightly as the cold air needs to circulate to cool your food.

8. Defrost fully

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is fully defrosted before cooking it. It can take as long as 48-hours for a large turkey to thaw. When you start defrosting, put the turkey in a large covered dish at the bottom of the fridge or a cool place. Avoid touching other foods and ensure the dish is large enough to collect any liquid, so it doesn’t contaminate other foods.

9. Avoid cross-contamination

Use different chopping boards and knives for raw meat and foods that are ready-to-eat, like cooked meats, washed salads and peeled washed vegetables, and ensure they are cleaned between each use. This will help to stop germs spreading. Keep your raw turkey and other raw meats on the bottom shelf of the fridge, separate from ready-to-eat foods.

10. Food safety at Christmas is not just about turkeys

Most people are aware of the importance of handling poultry safely, but many don’t consider the risk of food poisoning from vegetables. Remember that it’s important to wash and peel your vegetables as necessary, because soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria. Washing with rubbing and movement will help to remove bacteria from the surface of fruit and vegetables. Try to wash the least spoiled items first and give each of them a final rinse.

Following these simple steps can help everyone stay healthy this festive season.

Further advice is available on the FSS website www.foodstandards.gov.scot/festive