The warm days are increasing and alongside that is your chance of getting food poisoning. The combination of the festive season and temperatures going up means your food could also be coming up. Here’s how to avoid giving the food poisoning gift that keeps on giving to your friends and family this Christmas.
Preparing food for large groups such as at BBQs and Christmas parties always has increased risks. The average home is not designed for cooking for a lot of people. Guests often bring a plate which means that food has already been out of the fridge for a few hours and then may be left out again at the party with the host unaware of what’s in it.
Friends and family should be asked to bring foods that don’t require refrigeration or keeping hot such as cakes, biscuits and Christmas puddings. If you do need to bring chilled or hot food then use an insulation bag. Pack your salad or dessert just before leaving directly from the fridge and inform your host of any perishables when you arrive.
Fridges should always be set to below 5?C and cold foods should not be left out of the fridge for more than two hours. This time should be even less if food is on an outdoor table in the sun. Remember, that overloaded fridges and those where guests are opening the door to grab beer every 10 minutes are going to lose their cooling efficiency. To avoid overcrowding in your fridge take out foods that are probably in there and don’t need to be. Jars of pickles, chutneys, vinegars and bottled sauces can cope with being left out for a few days. Whole fruit can survive in the fruit bowl or cupboard as can raw vegetables. Ground coffee doesn’t need to be in the fridge either. It can be stored in an airtight jar.
Drinks can be stored in an esky or a sink full of ice. The key is to be aware of high risk foods and keep them at the back of the fridge on the bottom shelf. The types of food to watch are cooked or deli meats and pate and salads that have cooked vegetables, pasta or rice. Ready to eat seafood and dips are another culprit as are cream, egg and custard made desserts.
When you reheat or cool food do it as quickly as possible to avoid the danger zone which is a temperature between 5?C and 60?C. All food should be heated above or cooled below this zone. Meat should ideally be cooked to above 75?C. Always heat to boiling and look for clear juices when cooking chicken. Cool, defrost and marinate your foods in the fridge not on the bench. Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen directly after a meal. When in doubt chuck it out. Don’t store leftovers for more than two to three days. Christmas ham will store for several weeks if you handle it according to the instructions on the label.
It’s tempting when you’re cooking to try your biscuit or cake dough. Just remember that you’re eating raw eggs which is a high risk food. Tasting food to see if it’s okay is never a good idea either. It only takes a tiny bit of contaminated cooking to make you ill, so hurl that food before it makes you do the same. Never wash your poultry or meat in the sink as the water can easily spread bacteria to where you wash up. Also, make sure you replace your sponges and brushes every week or two as they are the dirtiest tools in your kitchen. Always, keep your utensils that handle different foods separate and wash your hands.
Reusable shopping bags can be a source of contamination. Make sure you wash them regularly. Remember, to remove your food from the car as soon as possible after you’ve bought it. Don’t take it to work in your boot or dump groceries in bags on the kitchen bench to unpack later that day.
Food poisoning affects 4.1 million Australians each year and it’s not always in the form of the runs or retching. You may just have stomach pains, nausea or headaches which you blame on a hectic social life or too much alcohol. Make sure you watch what you and your friends do with those festive foods. No one wants to spend their Christmas with the turkey trots.