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Food Standards Scotland give their tips for avoiding food poisoning this Christmas

Norval Strachan, Chief Scientific Officer at Food Standards Scotland, gives his tips on how to avoid food poisoning this Christmas.

Published: December 16, 2016
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The festive season is in full swing. Supermarket shelves are quickly emptying, the kids’ excitement levels are building and nerves are beginning to fray about cooking the Christmas dinner.

With all the merriment that goes with the season, many of us don’t think about the risks of poor hygiene in the kitchen – especially when cooking for large groups of friends and relatives.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has launched its new Festive Food Safety Campaign which focuses on helping Scots to avoid food poisoning this Christmas.

According to research carried out by FSS, a whopping 45 per cent of Scots say that they wash raw poultry. Washing poultry can splash harmful bacteria and germs like campylobacter over your work surfaces, cooking utensils and chopping boards.

Campylobacter can often be found in poultry but 58 per cent of Scots aren’t aware of what it is.

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Christmas cooks are being encouraged to ensure work surfaces are kept clean, with top tips including using separate or colour-coded chopping boards for raw meat and vegetables.

Professor Norval Strachan, Chief Scientific Adviser at Food Standards Scotland said: “Good hygiene practices when you’re preparing food are vital to a happy and healthy Christmas. Campylobacter is often found on raw or uncooked meat, particularly poultry.

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"It is the most common cause of foodborne illness in Scotland and it can have some pretty nasty symptoms.

“The research carried out by FSS shows that washing poultry is a common occurrence in households across the country and the levels of people failing to wash their hands before and after preparing food are still high.

“Avoiding cross-contamination is one of the best ways to protect yourself from campylobacter. Washing poultry is actually unnecessary as proper cooking will kill these harmful germs. You’ll also run the risk of contaminating work surfaces and other utensils so it’s not worth risking it.”

As part of the wider Festive Food Safety Campaign FSS has created a number of top tips and has advice available on its website to ensure a happy and healthy Christmas dinner which is prepared safely.

Norval’s Top Tips for a Clean Christmas Kitchen:

No.5: Avoid nasty germs this Christmas by washing your chopping boards after every use.

Why not colour code and use red for meat and green for veggies?

Festive but most importantly safe.

No.4: It’s so important to keep surfaces germ-free and a good way of doing this is by getting into the habit of cleaning as you go. A squirt of anti-bacterial spray and a clean cloth does wonders.

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No.3: Change your kitchen cloths and dish towels regularly.

They may look merry and bright but are perfect for spreading germs. Don’t mop up any raw meat juices and then use the same cloth to wipe surfaces – it’s a no-no.

No.2: You don't need to wash your Christmas poultry – or indeed at any time of the year.

Running your poultry under the tap in the sink can spread horrible germs like campylobacter which can cause food poisoning.

You certainly won’t be popular with your guests, so don’t risk it.

No.1: It’s simple.

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after food preparation.

It’s the easiest way to fight off the germs.

Check out the FSS website for a handy video on how best to wash your hands.

The 4 Cs:

Everyone’s Christmas should be merry and bright, not miserable.

The 4Cs from Food Standards Scotland are easy to remember and great to keep in mind when preparing the festive feast.

For more information visit the FSS website.

Cleaning

Clean hands and a clean kitchen are two things to definitely keep on top of this Christmas.

Remember to keep worktops, chopping boards and utensils clean and wash them thoroughly if they’ve been touched by raw meat or eggs.

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Cooking

Germs like campylobacter can strike at any time.

Cook your meat well this Christmas until it’s steaming hot all the way through and the juices run clear.

If you’re reheating the Christmas poultry to make use of all the leftovers make sure to cool and store in the fridge within 1-2 hours.

When reheating, make sure it’s cooked all the way through, and remember not to reheat it more than once.

Chilling

Chilling Christmas leftovers properly is really important.

Your fridge is your weapon against germs so keep the door closed and the temperature between 0-5°C.

With so much party food to enjoy at Christmas, try not to leave it out for more than four hours – otherwise germs might have a party of their own.

Cross contamination

Cross contamination is the easiest way to cause a nasty bout of Christmas food poisoning.

Don’t wash poultry before cooking it as this can splash harmful bacteria onto work surfaces and utensils and remember to be strict when arranging your festive fridge.

Keep raw meat and unwashed veggies separate from ready-to- eat food during storage and preparation.

This will help you keep organised and ensure no germs are spread.

 

Norval Strachan is Food Standards Scotland’s Chief Scientific Officer.

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