Long lunches, festive feasts and outdoor events go hand in hand over the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately these occasions are often served with a side of food poisoning with numbers of gastroenteritis higher than usual at this time of year.
“The warmer weather is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Food poisoning can ruin the holiday for everyone, but can be prevented with careful food hygiene, preparation and storage” says Medical Officer of Health Dr Jay Harrower from Auckland Regional Public Health Service.
Hot summer temperatures, especially during a heatwave are the typical breeding conditions for bacteria like campylobacter, salmonella and e-coli. These bacteria contaminate food and multiply in warm, moist conditions, which is why food preparation, cooking and storage need to be done correctly.
Here are 10 tips to help you avoid nasty food borne illnesses and enjoy a hygienic and happy holiday!
1. Remember the 4 C’s
Remember the 4 C’s to minimise the risk of food borne illness - Clean, Cook, Cover and Chill.
If you are unwell do not handle food for other people.
2. Follow good hand hygiene practice around food
Wash and dry your hands properly before and after handling food especially when working between meat and other food such as vegetables and salad ingredients.
3. Separate utensils
Use separate utensils for cooked and uncooked food; one chopping board and set of utensils for raw meat and another set for cooked food. Wash in hot, soapy water and dry them properly.
4. Make sure meat is thawed and prepared properly
Defrost frozen foods before cooking. Marinate meat in a covered container in the fridge and cook the marinade before pouring it over cooked foods.
5. Take care when preparing and refrigerating raw meat
Raw meat and chicken should be wrapped to stop drips and stored away from other foods ideally on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Ensure your fridge temperature is 2-4 ⁰C.
6. Cook meat thoroughly
Ensure meat is cooked thoroughly, especially chicken. Chicken carries the highest risk of any food for contamination and should be cooked until there is no pink flesh visible right down the middle. Minced meat and sausages should be cooked right through and pork and poultry juices should run clear.
7. Practice safe barbequing
Ensure food that is outdoors remains in the shade and is covered and cool until ready to cook or eat. We recommend using a chilly-bin with icepacks for keeping meat cold. Cooking with a barbecue makes it difficult to gauge the temperature so a meat thermometer is a good idea, the internal temperature should be 75 degrees Celsius.
8. Store left overs properly in sealed containers
Don’t let good leftovers spoil - cover and refrigerate as soon as possible. Throw out any meat products that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
If in doubt, throw it out.
9. Reheat leftovers thoroughly
There are often plenty of leftovers to tuck in to the following day – make sure you thoroughly reheat until hot. Remember warm does not kill bacteria.
10. Take care when travelling long distance with food
Only take non-perishable food on longer trips. Store the food in a cool, shady place – a chilly bin with ice packs is great for a beach picnic.
Enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season. If you are unwell or concerned about your health, please visit your doctor or call the nurses at Healthline for advice on 0800-611-116.