Keep Christmas plates safe for a happy new year

Friday, 21 December 2018

Whether you’re tucking into a turkey or serving up salads this Christmas, everyone celebrating should think about food safety during the festive season.

SA Health’s Acting Director of Food and Controlled Drugs, Kerin Montgomerie, said while entertaining family and friends over the Christmas and summer period is enjoyable, preparing food for a large number of people can be particularly risky. 

“The warmer weather and large gatherings with lots of food means it is this time of year that we normally see a spike in food poisoning cases,” Ms Montgomerie said.

“It’s important to remember that young children, older people and those with underlying medical conditions can be severely affected by food poisoning.

“Most of us don’t regularly cater for large groups of people and our kitchens aren’t designed for it. The fridge can easily get over packed, which reduces how effective it is.

“A simple way to make room is to save the fridge space for food, and put canned and bottled drinks on ice, as these types of drinks won’t make you sick if they’re not refrigerated.”

Ms Montgomerie said guests often bring food which can be out of the fridge for long periods while travelling, allowing time for bacteria to multiply.

“Plan ahead and ask guests who are travelling the longest distance to bring safer foods that don’t need to be kept hot or cold, or keep food in car fridges or eskies which are well stocked with ice,” she said.

“Food poisoning bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C, so avoid leaving food out for long periods.

“Leftover perishable food can go back into the fridge and be eaten within 2-3 days, provided it hasn’t been left out for more than two hours.

“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.”

Additionally if you’re hosting, it’s also worth checking with guests if they are at risk of Listeria food poisoning infection, as there are many foods at-risk people should avoid.

“While Listeria infection isn’t common, it can be deadly,” Ms Montgomerie said.

“Those at-risk include pregnant women and their unborn babies, older people, immuno-compromised, people on some medications and organ transplant recipients.

“High risk foods include cold meats, cold cooked chicken, raw seafood, smoked ready-to-eat seafood, ready-to-eat prawns, cut or prepacked fruit and vegetables, frozen fruit and vegetables that won’t be cooked further and soft cheeses.

“It’s best to avoid serving these to anyone at risk or cook them where possible.

“By keeping food safety in mind when entertaining this Christmas, we hope that food poisoning bacteria won’t be an unexpected guest at your party.”

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