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.
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 remove foods that don’t require refrigeration. 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 whole, raw vegetables. If you’ve already cut your fruits and vegetables, then they’ll have to go in the fridge. Drinks can be stored in an esky or on ice.
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, pate, salads that have cooked vegetables, pasta and rice. Ready to eat seafood and dips are another culprit as are cream, egg and custard made desserts. Seafood and raw meats should always be stored on the bottom shelf of your fridge, so they don’t drip onto other foods.
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 or turkey.
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 and remove it from the plastic.
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 large groups. 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.
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. Merry Christmas everyone!