Summertime and the Christmas holidays are a great time to get together with family and friends, but it can also be a danger time for food poisoning. Hot weather, an overloaded fridge and cooking for more people than we’re used to all add up to make perfect conditions for food poisoning bacteria.
To ensure you enjoy the festive season and summer months without getting sick, follow these food safety tips from the Food Safety Information Council.
The most important thing is to keep hot foods hot (above 60 °C) and cold foods cold (at or below 5 °C). Temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C are the ‘danger zone’ where food poisoning bacteria grow best.
Keeping food at the right temperature is about being prepared. Ensure you have enough room in the fridge to store foods that need to be kept cold. This might mean temporarily removing items such as condiments that don’t need refrigeration to stay safe, and keeping drinks cold in an esky rather than the fridge.
Whilst it’s best to prepare foods as close as possible to the time you are eating them, if you do prepare ahead of time, ensure ‘at risk’ foods go straight into the fridge until it’s time to eat. If you’re preparing large amounts of hot foods, divide them into smaller portions or containers and put them straight into the fridge or freezer once they stop steaming, ensuring there is good air circulation around them.
Keep raw and cooked foods separate. This means using separate chopping boards and utensils for cooked and raw food, or washing them well in between use. If you’re cooking on the BBQ, make sure the cooked meat goes onto a clean plate, and not back on the one which had the raw meat on it. It’s also important that anyone helping with food preparation washes their hands well before preparing foods and before and after handling raw meat and chicken.
If you’re planning a Christmas roast, ensure that it is defrosted in the centre before placing in the oven. When roasting, check that it’s thoroughly cooked all the way through to ensure any bacteria are killed. The best way to do this is to check that the temperature in the thickest part reaches 75 °C using a meat thermometer. Stuffing is best cooked separately.
Christmas is often a time for leftovers, which can increase the risk of food poisoning. Avoid this risk by refrigerating any leftovers immediately after the meal, using within two to three days and reheating until steaming hot all the way through. Your Christmas ham will keep for several weeks with proper handling but be sure to following any instructions on the packaging.
For more information about food safety and reducing your risks at home or on the move: