Our poor tummies take quite a battering over the festive season, with an additional 2,410 calories consumer every DAY over the festive break. We’re not just putting our waist lines at risk though – food poisoning cases also sky rocket at this time of year.
Unsurprisingly, poultry meat is the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with around 244, 000 cases every year. What you may not realise though is that produce, including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, cause the second highest number of cases (an estimated 48,000), above beef and lamb (around 43,000). But what can we do to prevent family-wide sickness?
1. The Christmas Turkey
The turkey is regularly the pinnacle of the festive lunch, with up to 76% of UK’s Christmas tables donning the large bird last year – that’s around 10 million turkeys.
A typical large turkey (11kg) takes two days to defrost. An FSA survey found that 69% of those who choose frozen turkey thaw it unsafely (and sometimes very confusing) places, such as the bath, garage and garden shed.
The FSA provide important tips on how to thaw and prepare a turkey from frozen in order to minimise the risk of food poisoning:
- Follow the retailer’s recommended defrosting time. The size of your turkey will determine how long it needs to be defrosted for (a large 11kg turkey can take up to two-days to defrost).
- Defrost your turkey in the fridge if possible or somewhere cool. Cold temperature slows the growth of germs on food and will keep it safe and fresh.
- Cover the turkey while defrosting, leave in the packaging or put it in a container to hold any thawing juices, and place it at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.
- Defrost thoroughly, as otherwise your turkey may not cook evenly and harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.
- Raw turkey should always be put in the bottom of fridge until ready to use. Leaving on the kitchen counter at room temperature could increase your risk of food poisoning.
Nicola Whitehead, specialist registered dietitian and owner of Nic’s Nutrition, says undercooked meat is something everyone should be wary of:
“I stay away from undercooked meat! I’m actually cooking Christmas dinner for the first this year and, as such, will be investing in a food thermometer. The thickest part of the turkey should reach 70C for more than TWO minutes, as well as ensuring that there is no pink meat and the juices are running clear – I do NOT want to be responsible for food poisoning!”
An 11kg turkey is pretty large, and with all the necessary Christmas trimmings to go with it, chances are you’ll have enough food left over to get you through until New Year’s. However, the desire not to waste a drop can be counter-intuitive, as any leftover food should be consumed within two days after cooking.
The FSA recommends that opened or cooked food should be left standing at room temperature for no longer than two hours (one hour for rice or rice based dishes). Nicola says
“Make sure to put your left-overs in a sealed container and in the fridge or freezer within 1-2 hours after cooking. A top tip is to add a sticky label to them with the date that they were cooked on. Leftovers should be eaten within 1-2 days. I also find that adding leftovers to a see-through glass or plastic container is handy as that way others can see what’s inside and the food will be more likely to get eaten! I’m extremely passionate about reducing food waste.”
3. Eating out
If you thought that dining away from home would eliminate any risk, you might want to think again. 34% of the UK public has reported that they had a bad experience when eating out and suspecting they contracted food poisoning from a restaurant or takeaway. Despite this, almost half of us (46%) never check food hygiene ratings of places they plan to eat in.