Don't let a turkey spoil your Christmas
Tuesday 15 December 2009
The Food Standards Agency is hoping to reduce the number of food safety clangers that are served up this Christmas, with its Christmas food safety advertising campaign.
The Agency's TV and radio adverts are jovial but have serious underlying messages about the preparation and cooking of turkey:
- don’t wash it (you don’t need to)
- defrost it thoroughly
- cook it properly
The advice is just as important whether people are cooking traditional turkey, or any other poultry.
The Agency’s research has shown that many people wash their turkeys before cooking, with older women the most frequent turkey-washing offenders. But washing meat or poultry can cause harmful food poisoning bacteria to splash on to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils, where they can linger for days.
Partially defrosted turkeys are another common festive food safety blunder. A turkey should be thawed completely to ensure there won’t be any ice crystals inside the cavity of the bird. You can also test it with a fork to tell whether the meat feels frozen.
Thorough cooking will ensure that any food poisoning bugs are killed. To ensure that the turkey is cooked properly, make sure it is piping hot all the way through. Cut into the thickest part (between the breast and thigh) to check that none of the meat is pink, and the juices run clear.
Peter Midgley, at the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, said: 'Cooking the Christmas dinner can sometimes feel like feeding the five thousand, what with aunties, cousins and everybody else that comes along. For most, the extra effort is worth it and everything will be great. But the fact that we tend to cook for more people than usual at Christmas, and often with foods we don’t cook regularly, means there’s a bigger chance of dishing up a nasty dose of food poisoning unless we are careful.
'Turkey washing is probably the most common blunder, and just isn’t necessary. It isn’t possible to wash off germs that cause food poisoning with water. But all germs will be killed if you cook your turkey thoroughly. By washing your raw bird, you’re actually more likely to spread the germs around the kitchen than get rid of them.
'Our turkey tips apply to all poultry – they’re just as important whether you’ll be cooking turkey, goose, chicken or pheasant.'
As well as giving advice about not washing, defrosting thoroughly and cooking the turkey properly, the Agency has the following advice to help prevent an upset tummy spoiling the festive season:
- Only buy as much food as you have space to store. If the fridge is overfilled with perishable food, it’s likely that it won’t be cold enough and you’ll be risking food poisoning.
- Try to buy a turkey that’s realistic for your needs – the bigger the turkey the more difficult it is to prepare and cook safely.
- Store raw meat at the bottom of the fridge, preferably in a covered container where it can’t drip onto other foods. Always keep raw meat and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Don’t leave buffet or party food out all day. Better to put out small amounts at a time, so that what has been on the table has just been cooked or just come out of the fridge.
- If you're reheating turkey, or other leftovers, always make sure it's steaming hot all the way through before you eat it. And don't reheat more than once. Ideally, try to eat, cook or freeze your leftovers within 48 hours.
For more information on how to prepare your Christmas dinner safely, or to use our online turkey cooking or defrosting calculators, follow the link below to our eatwell website. Alternatively email our Christmas food safety experts at email@example.com
- Adverts will run between 19 and 25 December on national and regional TV and commercial radio stations
- The best way to avoid food poisoning is to follow the 4 Cs: Cooking, Chilling, Cleaning and avoiding Cross-contamination. More information can be found on the FSA website: www.eatwell.gov.uk
- A total of 80% of people wash their turkeys before cooking, increasing significantly the risk of food poisoning (FSA survey of 2,148 people, UK, 2007)
According to Mintel’s most recent research into Christmas food, 2008:
- People spent £28.9 million on frozen Turkeys, compared to £25.7 million on fresh turkeys over Christmas (last 12 weeks of the year)
- 31% of consumers say they enjoy cooking at Christmas
- Turkey was the third most popular food item purchased for Christmas (48% of consumers purchasing) - beaten only by Mince Pies (58%) and Boxed Chocolates (51%)
More advice from our eatwell website
Room 245 Aviation House,
London WC2B 6NH
Telephone: 020 7276 8888
Out of hours duty pager: 07623 978344
Fax: 020 7276 8833