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19.12.2017

Barbecues, family feasts and outdoor eating go with the territory during the Christmas holidays – unfortunately so do the rates of gastroenteritis reported to public health.

“Summer is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. No one wants food poisoning for Christmas - it could also ruin your family holiday. What’s even worse is that it is entirely preventable.” says Medical Officer of Health Dr David Sinclair from Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Be food-wise and check out Dr Sinclair’s Q&A’s for Christmas meat-eaters during the festive season:

Why does summer make people so vulnerable to food poisoning?

Hot summer temperatures, especially during a heatwave are a breeding ground for bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella. These bacteria contaminate food and multiply in warm, moist conditions, which is exactly why meat is the ideal carrier for bacteria.

What is the highest risk food?

Meat-eaters need to be cautious, especially if you love 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.

What precautions should we be taking for barbecuing and picnics?

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. Precook chicken, meat patties and sausages before barbecuing. Cooking with a barbecue makes it difficult to gauge the temperature so a meat thermometer is a good idea and a handy Christmas present too.

How can we minimise the risk when preparing food?

Wash and dry your hands before and after handling food. Use one chopping board and set of utensils for raw meat and another set for cooked food. Follow the 4 Cs’ to minimise the risk of food borne illness - Clean, Cook, Cover, and Chill. If you are unwell do not handle food for other people.

What advice can you give when cooking meat?

Defrost frozen foods before cooking. Minced meat and sausages should be cooked right through and pork and poultry juices should run clear with no visible pink flesh.

How should we be storing 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.

What about the leftovers?

Cover and refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Throw out any meat products that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.

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 (Healthline is open 24 hours, seven days a week).

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