Susan Hart: Food safety at Christmas

I don’t want to be completely bah-humbug about Christmas, but this might be the only time of the year when the fridge, freezer, hobs and ovens are groaning under the weight of food.

So I think its worth thinking about ways to keep the whole family ‘food safe’ over the Festive period. This is especially important if you have very young, old or infirm visitors.

You don’t want anyone sitting around your table to be one of the 30 people who die from food poisoning each Christmas.

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So here are my top 10 tips:
Tip #1 – Sort out your fridge BEFORE doing your shopping; throw away half finished jars and bottles, turn scraps of vegetables in to soup and either eat over the coming days or freeze.  You can then put food straight in when you get back from the big Christmas shop. Try not to pack the fridge too tightly; cold air needs to circulate to cool your food.  Some items like beer, wine and vegetables can be kept in a cold garage, shed or cool box until needed.

Tip #2 – When buying your meat make sure none of the packaging has been damaged.  Place it in your trolley or basket away from other products.  When you are at the checkout wrap it in a separate carrier bag and transport it home as quickly as possible. To be extra safe you could put it in a cool bag in the boot of your car
Tip #3 –  Put raw meat at the BOTTOM of the fridge, so any drips don’t land on food that is ready-to-eat, such as cooked meats, desserts and salad items.
Tip #4 – Always wash your hands with warm water and soap, and dry them thoroughly, before handling food, and particularly after touching raw meat, poultry and vegetables
Tip #5 – Don’t wash your turkey (or any other meat) before cooking – harmful bacteria can splash onto work tops, clothes, dishes and other foods. Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria, so you don’t need to wash meat.
Tip #6 – Always clean and disinfect work tops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly after they have touched raw poultry/meat.
Tip #7 – If your fridge doesn’t have an inbuilt digital thermometer then buy a cheap fridge thermometer. Food in the fridge is best when kept between 1oC and 5oC.
Tip #8 – Check the dates on foods regularly and don’t eat foods past their ‘Use-by’ date, even though they might look and smell fine they may make you unwell.  ‘Best before’ is about quality not safety, so use your eyes, nose and taste to determine if you want to use it
Tip #9 – Eat leftovers within two days or freeze them. Only reheat food once, making sure it is very hot all the way through to destroy any food poisoning bugs. Chilled leftovers may be eaten cold if they have been stored correctly.

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Tip #10 – Make sure you defrost and cook your turkey in plenty of time. See my charts below
If in doubt use a food thermometer.  The thickest part of the meat (for a turkey that’s between the breast and the thigh) should be at least 70°C for two minutes. Any leftovers should be wrapped and stored in the fridge within two hours of serving

And finally, don’t forget to wash and scrub all your veg as they can also harbour bacteria and bugs.

The video highlights the potential risks


  1. To Michael J Sheriston……..I reheat dinners from the freezer by steaming between two plates on top of saucepan. When heated through make a gravy and go for it. Works for me.

  2. These are all COMMON SENSE TIP’S. But a cooked turkey will last more than 2 days before you need to freeze. My guests all said upto a week if well covered in fridge. We always put food waste high on the gender. People should only buy the quantity of food they need, they save money that way.

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