Christmas Food Safety Tips From St Helens Environmental Health Depertment

Follow these safety tips when preparing festive fare over Christmas

Make sure your Christmas is not only happy but safe too by following these food safety tips when preparing your festive fare.

This simple to follow advice has been issued by St.Helens Council’s Environmental Health officers in a bid to ensure good health over Christmas.

If you are catering for family and friends storage can be a problem, so always ensure there is enough fridge and freezer space to keep perishable food cool and safe. If you are short of space you should take drinks out to make more room for cooked foods. Drinks can be stored in another cooler place in the house or in a cool box with ice.

Keep raw meats and defrosting food at the bottom of the fridge to prevent any drips from falling onto other food. Always store cooked foods and left overs away from raw food. Keep the

temperature of your fridge at about 5C by monitoring it with a fridge thermometer

Frozen turkeys and other poultry have to be thoroughly thawed in a cool room before cooking. To check the bird is completely thawed, make sure there are no ice crystals in the body cavity and that the legs are flexible. Once defrosted, store in the bottom of the refrigerator until required.

It is strongly recommended that stuffing is cooked separately. If the bird is stuffed, this should be placed in the neck cavity only and additional cooking time must be added.

The table below is a cooking guide. Cook at a temperature of 190 deg centigrade, (375f) or Gas Mark 5 and baste regularly. To test the bird is cooked, insert a skewer into a thigh and ensure that the juices run clear. It should finish cooking approximately 30 minutes before serving, then left to stand/rest. This also makes carving easier. Any meat remaining should be cooled quickly, placed in the refrigerator and used within three days.

Oven ready weight Thawing time Cooking time (foilwrapped) Approxserving

550-1.4kg 4-10hrs 1-1.5 hrs 2-4

1.4-2.3kg (3-5lb) 10-15hrs 1.5-2 hrs 4-6

2.3-3.6kg (5-8lb) 15-18hrs 2-3 hrs 6-10

3.6-5kg (8-11lb) 18-20hrs 3-3.5 hrs 10-15

5-6.8kg (11-15lb) 20-24hrs 3.5-4.5 hrs 15-20

6.8-9kg (15-20lb) 24-30hrs 4.5-5 hrs 20-30

You should remember that oven temperatures may vary - this is just a guide.

If you have a meat thermometer ensure the deepest muscle temperature is 75 deg C or above.

Twelve tips for a safe Christmas

1. Do not prepare food too far in advance

2. Take chilled/frozen food home in cool bags

3. Check the 'use by' dates

4. Keep your kitchen clean

5. Keep your fridge between 0 and 5 degrees centigrade

6. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food

7. Keep cooked and raw food separate

8. Plan the menu and defrost food thoroughly before use

9. Keep pets away from food

10. Store cooked food above raw food in a refrigerator

11. Follow the cooking instructions on packets

12. Cook food thoroughly and "have a safe meal"

To avoid cross contamination, prepare raw and cooked food separately and clean and disinfect all utensils and surfaces thoroughly before preparing different foods. Use a food sanitiser such as antibacterial spray on work surfaces, especially after preparing raw meats. Wash dishes, utensils and work surfaces with clean hot water and detergent and keep your hands clean at all times by washing them frequently in hot soapy water, particularly before handling foods. Cover any cuts or grazes with waterproof dressings, keep dishcloths clean and change hand and tea towels often.

It is easy to know when food is "off" by amongst other things the smell. But if the food is pre-packed, how can you tell whether the food is fit to be eaten?

One way is by looking at the date mark on the packaging. There are two types of date mark - "Use By" and "Best Before".

A "Use By" date is the date by which a food should be used. This type of date mark is only applied to highly perishable foods, where to use the food past the date shown may pose a health risk e.g. food poisoning.

A "Best Before" date is a date by which a food should be used if it is to be enjoyed at its best. In other words this type of date mark relates to food quality rather than food safety. This type of date mark is only applied to those foods with a long shelf life including frozen and tinned foods.

For further advice and information contact: Environmental Health, 3rd Floor Wesley House, St.Helens, WA10 1HE, Tell: 01744 456338

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