Cooking a Christmas roast for a large gathering can be a challenge, and it is vital that the turkey, or other meat of choice, is stored, defrosted and cooked correctly. Likewise, leftovers from Christmas need to be reheated and consumed within specific timeframes in order to avoid food poisoning.
While many people mistakenly think that food poisoning is just a passing stomach bug, it can have serious consequences – especially for children, people already in ill-health and older people.
Adam Hardgrave, Expert in Foodborne Disease Control at the Food Standards Agency, said: “The 4cs of food hygiene: chilling, cleaning, cooking and avoiding cross-contamination are important throughout the year, but especially at Christmas.”
“In the flurry of Christmas preparations , it’s important to remember to plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Remember that an average-sized turkey can take four days to fully defrost in the fridge, and it is vital to thoroughly cook a turkey so it is steaming hot, there is no pink meat visible, and juices run clear.”
BEFORE THE BIG DAY
Avoid cross-contamination when doing your Christmas food shopping: make sure you take enough bags, so you can pack raw and ready-to-eat food separately.
In the fridge, store the turkey and other raw food separately from cooked and ready-to-eat food. Keep raw food covered and chilled on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and regularly check that
the fridge is cold enough. Your fridge should always be below 5°C. A fridge’s dial is not usually an accurate indicator of the temperature, so use a fridge thermometer to check this, widely available in larger supermarkets, home stores and online.
- DEFROSTING YOUR TURKEY
If your turkey is frozen, make sure you check the guidance on the packaging to ensure you have enough time to fully defrost it. Defrost it according to size – a typical turkey weighting 6 to 7kg could take as much time as four days to fully defrost in the fridge.
If there aren’t instructions on the packaging, these times are useful as a guide:
- In a fridge at 4°C, allow around 10 to 12 hours per kg (remember that not all fridges will be this temperature).
- In a cool room (below 17.5°C) allow approximately 3 to 4 hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold
- Always defrost the turkey in a container large enough to catch any juices. Do not defrost food at room temperature. If necessary, use a microwave on the ‘defrost setting’ directly before cooking.
Avoid cross-contamination by using different utensils, plates and chopping boards for ready-to-eat food and raw food. Don’t wash raw turkey or any other meat – it splashes germs onto your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops. Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present.
To work out the cooking time for the turkey or other meat, check the guidance on the packaging, and the manufacturer’s handbook for your oven if you can.
As a general guide, allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey under 4.5kg. Allow 35 minutes per kg for a turkey weighing more than 6.5kg.
- USING A TEMPERATURE PROBE OR COOKING THEMOMETER
If you’re using a temperature probe – used to check the internal temperature occasionally – you should ensure the thickest part of the bird (between breast and thigh) reaches a temperature of 70°C for more than two minutes. This temperature guide also applies if you’re using a cooking thermometer – which is left in the bird while it cooks.
Always check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and that the meat juices run clear.
- TIME SAVING HOT TURKEY TIP
Cooking your turkey in advance could save you getting stressed and gives you more time on the day with family and friends. Once your turkey is cooked and cooled, slice and batch it into portions to store in the freezer. You can then take out and reheat the amount you need when you need it.
Once Christmas day is over and you have lots of delicious leftovers, be sure to follow these guidelines.
- Cool any leftovers at room temperature, then cover them and ensure they go into the fridge or freezer within one to two hours
- If you freeze cooked meats, once defrosted, eat the food within 24 hours
- When you come to use frozen leftovers, make sure you defrost them thoroughly in the fridge overnight or in the microwave (on the defrost setting) and then reheat until steaming hot
- Don’t forget that leftovers should be eaten or frozen within two days (one day for rice dishes)
- HAPPY SEASON’S EATINGS
- Once you’ve followed these guidelines around food hygiene, it’s time to sit down to a perfectly cooked meal with your loved ones, and enjoy this festive season.
For more information visit: www.food.gov.uk/seasons-eatings
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme was launched in 2010, making it easier for local residents to find out about the hygiene standards of food outlets in the district. This national scheme, developed by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities, provides information on food hygiene standards to help people to choose where to eat out or shop for food.
These outlets and organisations are then inspected by Council food safety officers, to check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements, and are provided a hygiene rating ranging from zero (urgent improvement necessary) to five (very Good).
The scheme covers businesses supplying or serving food direct to consumers such as restaurants, takeaways, cafés, pubs, hotels, schools, hospitals, care homes, supermarkets and other retailers. Residents can view ratings at www.food.gov.uk/ratings
Hygiene: Our Food Businesses are Performing Well
When our officers carry out hygiene inspections of food businesses they assess how well (or badly) the business operator complies with the law, in particular
- Is the food being prepared, cooked, cooled, stored and displayed hygienically so that it is not contaminated with harmful bacteria, foreign objects such as glass, metal etc or chemicals?
- Is the structure and equipment used for food preparation clean, suitable and properly maintained? This includes consideration of layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- Does the business understand what it needs to do to ensure that food is safe? Does it, for example keep food at the correct temperatures or make sure that raw food is stored separately from ready to eat food? Importantly does the business ensure that these precautions are part of the routine and do they keep records to show this?
For when things go very wrong, officers have powers to immediately close premises that present a serious risk to health and they are not allowed to reopen without the Council’s permission. Any business with a zero score will be kept under very close scrutiny to ensure improvements take place quickly.
Information for businesses:
- Businesses can appeal against the rating they are given if they believe it is wrong or unfair.
- Businesses can ask for another visit to get a new rating if they make the improvements to hygiene standards that the inspecting officer has asked for.
- Businesses also have a ‘right to reply’ if they improve hygiene standards since their inspection, or if there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection.
You can get more information and download the forms you need from www.food.gov.uk
For more information, please contact the Environmental Health Section on 01923 776611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking of starting a food business? Visit the Food Standards Agency website for more advice. For local training opportunities please see www.saferfoodscores.co.uk