• 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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  • 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.

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    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!
  • 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