How to dodge food poisoning this Christmas

Family dinner Image copyright Thinkstock

Turkey, roast potatoes and yes - even Brussel sprouts are about to take centre-stage on the nation's dining tables.

But with fridges bursting and a never-ending supply of leftovers to use up, how do you avoid the unwelcome guest of food poisoning making an appearance?

1. Keep cool

It's party time; you've got friends coming round; the booze is flowing faster than the tears on Strictly and you've laid out a buffet that would put Nigella or Jamie to shame.

Kevin Hargin, director of food-borne disease control at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says: "The spread is out on the table all evening getting nice and warm - the bugs are having a great time in the salad dressings, the quiches and so on.

"The best idea is to only put out the food when you need, don't leave it out all the time."

Plus you don't want to be remembered for hosting the party that ruined Christmas #mortified.

Food poisoning - the main culprits

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Salmonella - an unwanted guest at Christmas

Campylobacter - This is the most common cause. The bacteria are usually found in raw or undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

Salmonella - Raw eggs, milk and other dairy products - plus undercooked meat again - can play host to the salmonella bacteria.

Listeria - This can live in chilled ready-to-eat foods, like pre-packed sandwiches, cooked sliced meats and pate, plus soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert. All should be eaten by their sell-by-dates to be on the safe side, and pregnant women need to be especially careful, since a listeria infection can cause pregnancy and birth complications - and even miscarriage.

E. coli - Most cases of E. coli poisoning happen after eating undercooked beef (particularly mince, burgers and meatballs, or drinking unpasteurised milk.

2. Respect the bird

It's the star of the show on the day - but it's probably the only turkey (or duck, or goose) that you cook all year.

"People are not used to cooking turkey or anything of that size," says Kevin.

Defrosting a 6-7kg bird can take three days if you do it in the fridge so give it plenty of time.

And if your bird has an icy core then it might not cook properly in the oven, running the risk of having a bit of Salmonella or Campylobacter making it onto the plate.

You'll also want the juices to run hot, steamy and clear to know the bird is cooked.

Image copyright FSA
Image caption Defrost me, cook me, eat me

3. Ice is your best friend

Christmas is time for something to step out of the shadows and become the hero it was born to be.

I am of course talking about your freezer - Hollywood is calling already.

Kevin again: "People tend to order and prepare far more than they're ever going to eat, so there's a lot of leftovers and people think you can't freeze that.

"But that's one of the big myths. It's safe to freeze the leftover turkey so you could bring it out again at New Year."

But when you do defrost, gobble [ahem] it up within 24 hours.

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