• raw chicken campylobacter food poisoning

    Campylobacter food poisoning is not a mild dose of the runs

    Some people think that food poisoning is a mild illness which if anything might help them lose weight, but I recently watched this clip about a man who contracted Campylobacter food poisoning and developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, causing him to be paralysed. Having seen a friend also go through similar slow recovery from this syndrome, I know how awful, painful and frankly scary it is.

    I am sharing this because simple precautions can help to prevent what can be a life-changing or even life-threatening event. If we think about the chain of infection, the places to break that chain become very obvious, and are not even expensive. In the clip, Dai talks about the importance of cooking chicken to prevent illness, but there is more to it than that. It may be that he did cook his chicken properly, so how else could he have become ill?Read more

  • Reducing Food Waste Safely – Top Tips

    I guess the first thing about reducing food waste is not to buy so much – plan ahead, see what you already have and don’t shop when hungry. Using a list can help, and on-line shopping can be a godsend for many reasons, but one is that you can check your cupboards as you shop. However, with all the will in the world, you may be faced with a load of food in the fridge that is making you feel guilty! Here are some simple tips to save waste.

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  • Make sure you are safe with your Christmas turkey - use a thermometer

    Christmas Turkey – top tips for safety!

    Christmas is coming and the turkey questions keep rolling in! So here are some simple answers and top tips to keep you safe this Christmas. Watch this space – more updates to come!

    Q How do I store the raw turkey?

    • In the fridge – lowest shelf, protected from any foods that are ready to eat.

    Q Should I wash raw turkey?

    • Absolutely not – never!!! If you wash turkey you risk spreading germs all over your kitchen sink, draining board and anything else in the vicinity. Try not to handle it too much either – anywhere it’s been needs disinfecting – use an antibacterial spray such as Dettol. And don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly using soap and dry with a paper towel. I wash my hands twice after handling raw meat and poultry just to be on the safe side.

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  • Some restaurants may serve pink burgers, but cook well at home

    Burgers Again

    The burger conundrum continues. Today is National Burger Day, and the Food Standards Agency is rightfully explaining to consumers why they need to cook a burger all the way through. Burgers are not like steak where just the outside surface could be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli (and can be cooked off, leaving the middle rare). Burger meat is made from the outside and inside surfaces all minced up together, making the inside of a burger potentially contaminated.

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  • Campylobacter In the News Again

    Campylobacter is in the news again – what are the key facts?

    What is Campylobacter?Campylobacter has been found in a high percentage of raw poutlry

    Campylobacter is a bacterium that causes very unpleasant illness, which in England and Wales kills around 100 people per year. It is estimated that there may be 460,000 cases per year and 22,000 hospitalisations annually. The illness can linger on for over a week. It causes severe diarrhoea, acute abdominal pain, and can result in complications such as reactive arthritis.

    Where does it come from?

    In the EU around 50-80% of illness is attributed to poultry. Over 60% of retail poultry has been found to contain Campylobacter in a UK study, but the figure may be much higher in Europe where 75% has been quoted. It is also found on other meats and in the environment – wild birds carry it and leave it in their faeces and in water courses.

    How do people get ill at home?

    • Campylobacter is infectious in very low doses, so you don’t need much to make you ill.
    • Contamination has been found on meat and poultry packaging, so the risks can start at the supermarkets.
    • On the way home, the bag can be contaminated (over and over again if a bag for life).Dirty cloths can spread bacteria
    • When you get home other opportunities for contamination can be in your fridge (on to ready-to-eat food), on surfaces, utensils and hands. Clean up with a cloth, and it’s on there too!
    • If you undercook chicken or chicken livers, then you are heading for trouble, as the bacteria could survive.

    What can be done to be safe?

    Understanding the routes of transmission is the first thing – and you can see that hand washing with soap would be very useful at a number of times:

    • After doing the shopping
    • After putting foods away in the fridge
    • After preparing chicken and meat

    You also need to clean up to kill any Campylobacter on surfaces or utensils. Hot soapy water in my opinion is not enough – I am worried that the cloth will get contaminated and then spread the bacteria all round the kitchen!

    Here are my recommendations:

    • Use the dishwasher on a hot wash for utensils
    • If washing up by hand, put dirty utensils in the sink and (carefully)! pour boiling water over them – could be when draining the peas!Dishwashers at high temperatures will get utensils hygienically clean
    • Use an anti-bacterial cleansing spray on the surfaces with disposable paper towels. You don’t need to get through bucket loads of the stuff – a bottle can last a long time if you just use it when you really need to.
    • If you use a cloth, then you will need to disinfect it after use and then leave it to dry – or if disposable, throw it away.


    • Cook poultry and poultry products all the way through – 75 °C is recommended and you can only measure that with a clean probe thermometer. These are very cheap – less than £20. Believe me, that is money well spent! You can’t always tell by looking at food colour whether it is cooked enough. And I am not saying that because we are selling them!


    So once it’s in the pan – blitz those surfaces, utensils and hands, cook thoroughly and job done!

  • Top Tips for a Healthy Christmas

    Traditional Roast Turkey with TrimmingsWe all know how stressful cooking the Christmas lunch is, and you definitely don’t want to add the worry of a houseful of poorly tummies to the mix.

    So rather than leave it to chance, stop worrying about whether your food is cooked enough and at the same time have a lovely tasty Christmas turkey that is cooked to temperature not to colour

    With a simple probe thermometer you can take the reading in the thickest part of the meat. Easy. And cheap – a great little thermometer costs only £19.00 from Hygiene Audit Systems.


    And then after handling the raw turkey, do wash your hands and use an antibacterial cleanser for disinfecting and cleaning the surfaces which may have been contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

    Ten Top Tips for Turkey Day!

    • Make sure your fridge is cold enough – use a cheap fridge thermometer – available from supermarkets for around £5. Turn down the temperature you are aiming for 5 °C
    • Storing the raw turkey – use a tray to catch the drip, put at the bottom of the fridge away from anything that is ready-to-eat
    • After handling raw meat or poultry, wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water, dry with a paper towel rather than a tea towel.
    • Clean and disinfect anything that may have contamination from raw turkey – use the dishwasher on a high temperature, use an anti-bacterial cleanser and paper towel for surfaces, and don’t use the kitchen cloth or it will simply spread the bacteria all round the kitchen
    • Cook to 75 °C in the thickest part of the meat – use a clean probe thermometer
    • Turkey left overs? With clean hands, strip off the carcass and put on a clean plate, cover and put in the fridge above any raw meat or veg
    • Eat left overs within 3 days of cooking
    • Re-heat left overs quickly and to above 75 °C
    • No room in the fridge? Ditch some of the less important items such as chutneys, jams, sauces etc. and put them in a cold part of the house or in a box in the garage for a few days to make room for cooked meats and foods that could become dangerous if left out of refrigeration.
    • Lots of people using your wc? Keep the soap stocked up and make sure you change the hand towel daily at least to keep the shared bugs down. Use an antibacterial wipe on the flush handle and door handle if you want to be particularly hygienic!
  • Thermometers can save your teeth!

    Before I decided to take my work home with me, I used my judgement about whether food was cooked, and looked at the colour and consistency. My kids gnawed their way through tough chicken as a result of over cooking. Eating a meal at our house was like a gym workout for the mouth.

    Many foods need to be cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria which may be hidden in the raw materials: eggs, chicken, duck, beef burgers, pork and rolled joints – and of course your Christmas turkey. No-one was going to get food poisoning on my watch!

    But what does thorough cooking actually mean in practice? How can you tell if something is cooked, and can you judge from colour, texture or whether the “juices run clear”? The simple answer is no, you can’t tell. What you are actually trying to achieve is pasteurisation, which is where food is cooked to an appropriate temperature for a certain time which will kill bacteria to provide a safe food. The lower the temperature, the longer the time needed, so mostly we aim for 75 °C for about 18 seconds (or basically as long as it takes to register on the thermometer).

    Anyway, my family are probably grateful that many years ago I introduced a probe thermometer into my home, and things have changed – we now all cook to temperature. Even the teenagers!

    It’s a funny thing, so many chefs complain if I ask them to cook to 75 °C but in fact this can easily give a moist, succulent cooked food. Indeed, we have experimented with the RSPH on how to make chicken liver parfait, and have produced a lovely pink moist product at 75 °C.

    Furthermore, I have cooked rare duck  and more recently, scrambled eggs, producing a tasty runny scrambled egg that is yes, you guessed it, above 75 °C.

    pink duck 75 la runny eggs at 75 for web

    So don’t leave it to chance, don’t worry about whether your food is cooked enough, and above all, enjoy tasty food that is cooked to temperature not to colour – take out the worry, insert a clean probe (put it in boiling water to sanitize) and take the reading in the thickest part of the food. Simple.


    From The Hygiene Doctor Shop:

  • Can you reheat rice?

    Brown rice

    I get asked this question a lot, and the answer is “yes you can reheat rice” but the important thing to prevent food poisoning has nothing to do with the re-heating process.

    It is a little known fact that it is actually the cooling and cold storage that is the most important part. Rice and other cereal products such as pasta can contain bacteria called Bacillus cereus which is what is known as a spore-forming organism. The spores survive the cooking process and if allowed to germinate after cooking (by being left at room temperature) can multiply, producing a food poisoning toxin that is not destroyed by heat. So however well you re-heat rice, if you have not cooled it properly, then the toxin could still be there.

    The symptoms of food poisoning are usually rapid onset of vomiting (within a few hours) and fortunately the illness is mostly short-lived, and usually not serious, although there was a case reported in Belgium (1) in 2003 where a family was affected badly by a pasta salad that had been kept out of temperature control for some time, and caused one fatality.

    There are not many incidences of B. cereus reported because it is often over and done with before anyone gets to the doctor for a test to be done, so we don’t really know how much of a problem it is in the community.

    Simple tips to control Bacillus cereus after cooking rice or pasta are:

    • Cool rice and pasta rapidly by rinsing in a colander under fresh cold running water. Then refrigerate.
    • Or place in shallow dishes and put in the refrigerator as soon as the food reaches room temperature – probably within 30 minutes but no longer than 90 minutes.
    • Make sure the fridge is working properly – use a fridge thermometer and check that it is below 5 °C preferably.
    • You can freeze rice – defrost quickly using boiling water or the microwave, and don’t allow to hang around at room temperature after defrosting or re-heating
    • Don’t leave rice or pasta salads at room temperature for no longer than 4 hours in total – throw any left overs away.

    (1) J Clin Microbiol. 2005 August; 43(8): 4277-4279

  • Rare Burgers Again

    Dr Lisa Ackerley considers whether undercooked burgers should be on the menu

    Rare Steaks

    It’s a plain fact – on a steak, contamination is likely to be on the outside surface. If you cook steak on the outside, then it should be safe even if it is rare in the middle. BUT!!!! Please read this carefully – despite the gung-ho approach taken by many foodies and chefs, undercooked burgers can be very dangerous, and that also goes for steak tartare.

    Rare Burgers

    rare burger on wood platterThe reason why minced meat is potentially dangerous is simply that minced up meat is of course more likely to include contamination all the way through, as what was the outside of a piece of meat is now mixed up with the inside. That’s why you should not serve an undercooked burgers or eat raw mince.

    How cooked does a burger need to be?

    Whilst it is pretty obvious that the burger in the photograph is virtually raw, what about the medium cooked ones, or those that are just pink? Are they safe? (Don’t get me started on the fact that this burger is served on a heavily scored wooden platter…)

    A government committee, the ACMSF in the UK makes strong recommendations that burgers should be cooked to 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent including 75°C for 18 seconds.

    Quite often we are told to cook meats till they are “piping hot” in the middle and cooked till juices “run clear”.

    But the trouble with this is it is subjective – what does that mean? Furthermore, a the Food Safety and Inspectorate Service (FSIS) in the USA says that colour is not a particularly good indicator of whether a burger is cooked safely! For a long time in the USA the advice has been for consumers  to use a probe thermometer to check temperatures are high enough for safety.

    Interestingly, the Americans found a burger paradox about using the colour of burgers to test for doneness and destruction of dangerous bacteria:

    • Some under cooked burgers may appear to lose all pink colour meaning they may look fully cooked before they are safe to eat 
    • Some lean burgers may remain pink at temperatures well above the final recommended cooking temperature

    So in a nutshell, if you go on looks, you could easily over or under-cook burgers!

    The only way you can really be sure is to check the temperature. The good news is it’s quick and easy. For £15 you can buy a rapid response thermometer, but a dose of E. coli could be not only catastrophic for your health or even life, but at the very least, quite expensive!

    My teenagers wouldn’t dream of cooking a sausage or burger without checking the temperature at the end – if it’s not 75 °C they won’t eat it, and if they can do it, so can anyone! Just make sure you disinfect the probe in some boiling water or with an anti-bacterial wipe though won’t you?