Food Standards Scotland launched its first festive food safety campaign, encouraging people to make sure food poisoning is the last thing on their list.
Despite 43,000 food poisoning infections, 5,800 GP visits and 500 hospital admissions across the country every year, figures show three quarters of Scots think they’re unlikely to fall ill from food prepared in their own home.
The campaign features Santa Claus stricken by a bout of food poisoning.
It’s hoped the advice will lead to more people following the Four Cs of food safety: cleaning, cooking, chilling and avoiding cross-contamination, with specific advice on the storage, preparation and cooking of turkeys and leftovers.
Geoff Ogle, chief executive of Food Standards Scotland, said poor preparation and cooking larger meals than normal is what can lead to illness.
“Christmas is a time for all the family to come together and enjoy themselves, and food plays an important part of that. Home cooks are usually preparing larger quantities of food - from party snacks to turkey roast dinners," he said.
“When you’ve got a lot to do in the kitchen and in a hurry you can take your eye off the ball when it comes to hygiene, and when that happens there’s more scope for things to go wrong.”
The agency said research shows two-thirds of people learn to cook from a family member (77%), suggesting good hygiene and food safety habits can be learned and passed down through generations.
Ogle said there are number of simple things people could do to help reduce food poisoning.
“These should include allowing adequate time to defrost your turkey in the bottom of your fridge or somewhere cold: large turkeys can take a couple of days. If it’s not completely de-frosted it can mean inconsistent cooking through the bird and won’t get rid of bugs like Campylobacter which can cause food poisoning.
“Also make sure it’s cooked through until the juices run clear, store leftovers in the fridge and eat them within two days unless they’ve been frozen, and re-heat them just once. And keep your fridge temperature at 0-5°C.”
Americas and summer food warning
Health Canada said some foods, like turkey, eggnog and food served buffet-style, can cause food poisoning if not prepared and handled safely.
It gave four steps to follow to protect from food poisoning:
- Clean: Wash your hands and all kitchen surfaces with warm, soapy water before, during and after preparing food.
- Separate: Separate raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook: Cook food to a safe internal temperature. Check this by using a digital food thermometer.
- Chill: Refrigerate food and leftovers promptly at 4°C (40°F) or below.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said many people don't realize that food safety is the most important ingredient in preparing food for the holidays.
Whether it’s packaged cookie dough or a frozen entrée or pizza or any ready-to-cook foods used for convenience, cook or bake them according to the directions on the package, added the agency.
Meanwhile, the Department of Primary Industries of the New South Wales government in Australia warned about summer eating lapses.
“Summer is a time for spending quality time with family and friends enjoying special summer treats such as BBQs and seafood,” it said.
“Unfortunately at this time of year there are spikes in food poisoning. Salmonella typically doubles in the summer, compared with the winter months.
“Family feasts, eating outdoors and the warmth of summer can offer the ideal environment for bacteria to grow. When large quantities of food are cooked and left out in the open for long periods, food poisoning bugs can spread and multiply. Fridges that are overfilled with leftovers and kept at 5oC or above also pose a risk.”