Food for thought: Keep it safe from purchase to plate this Christmas

Thursday, 14 December 2017

People preparing their Christmas feasts are urged to have an action plan when shopping and storing food to ensure they don’t end up with a Boxing Day belly ache.

 SA Health’s Director of Public Health Service, Dr Kevin Buckett, said people should be aware of food safety practices for cooking and preparation, but it is equally important to ensure food is stored correctly and at the right temperature.

 “The festive season is a busy time as people rush to get their food and present shopping done by Christmas – but that shouldn’t come at the cost of food safety,” he said.

 “We’ve already had 1262 salmonella cases to date and there were more than 1500 last year. This is a nasty food-borne disease and can be prevented by proper food handling practices.

 “Perishable foods such as chicken, ham, and seafood warm up even quicker than normal on hot days, so it’s important to ensure the food temperature remains below 5 degrees.

 “So while it may be tempting to pick up a few extra last-minute items on the way home after doing your grocery shopping, the warm interior of a car provides the ideal environment and temperature for bacteria to multiply.

 “That’s why it’s important to always pick up your refrigerated goods at the end of your shop and use an esky or cooler bags to transport cold items, which should be packed away as soon as you get home.

 “It’s also vital that you don’t overstock your fridge and freezer, as this won’t allow the cool air to circulate freely and food cannot be adequately frozen or chilled.”

 Dr Buckett said while Christmas leftovers were a great way to ensure excess food is not wasted, they should also be handled with care.

 “It can be difficult to know if leftovers are safe to eat, so try to remember the 2 hour-4 hour rule,” Dr Buckett said.

 “If the food has been left out for less than two hours it should be okay to put back in the fridge to eat later, so long as it hasn’t been sitting in the sun.

 “Never eat perishable food or leftovers that have been unrefrigerated for more than four hours especially salads, dips, pate, dairy products, raw egg products, meat, poultry, seafood or rice.

 “This rule is particularly important if the leftovers are going to be consumed by young children, older people, pregnant women or someone who is unwell as these people are most at risk of food poisoning.

 “I urge South Australians to follow these simple steps and other basic food safety measures, so we can all have a happy and healthy Christmas.”

Food safety DOs:

  • DO carry your food home in the coolest part of your car.
  • DO make sure your fridge is clean, uncluttered and set at 5°C or below.
  • DO use an esky or ice in a tub for drinks instead of over-crowding the fridge.
  • DO keep perishable and ready to eat foods in the fridge such as seafood, rice, pasta, salads, dips, cold meats, pates, soft cheeses, eggs and homemade mayonnaise or other raw egg foods.
  • DO use a thermometer when cooking poultry, minced meats, sausages and tenderised meats to check they have reached 75 degrees in the centre before serving.
  • DO put any perishable left overs in the fridge within 2 hours, and consume within two or three days
  • DO maintain good hand hygiene, washing your hands in warm soapy water before preparing and cooking food, and after handling eggs and raw meat, particularly poultry, burgers and sausages.
  • DO remember that if you are pregnant or immunocompromised that you should avoid soft cheese, raw egg foods and cold meats such as ham and seafood.

 Food safety DON’Ts:

  • DON’T leave your shopping in a hot car.
  • DON’T store leftovers of perishable foods on the kitchen bench.
  • DON’T put cooked meat or poultry back on the plate that raw meat was on.
  • DON’T allow cooked meals to cool on the bench. As soon as steam stops rising, refrigerate or freeze in a leak proof container.
  • DON’T leave perishable nibbles like dips and soft cheese out in the temperature danger zone (between 5 and 60 degrees) for longer than two hours.
  • DON’T prepare food if you are vomiting or have diarrhoea.

 For more information about food safety and handy hints and tips, see: Food safety.

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