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Christmas food hygiene essential as we prepare for a summer scorcher

WHILE green might be a festive colour for clothing, it’s not the shade you want your guests’ faces to turn after the Christmas meal at your place.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is reminding people of the importance of good food hygiene in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year.

“The stress of preparing a large and unfamiliar meal at this time of the year can often lead to issues with food handling and storage, which unfortunately often results in food-related illnesses occurring,” Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Margaret Young said.

“No one wants to be sick during the holidays, so it’s important to follow good food safety practices.

“Planning ahead to ensure food is served close to when its prepared is one of the simplest steps you can take to prevent food from becoming contaminated.

“Another simple step is to thoroughly clean any chopping boards, knives and other equipment that has been used to prepare meat or poultry before using it on other food.

“If you have prepared food early, make sure you keep it chilled in a fridge and if you’re travelling to the beach or park ensure it’s in cooler bags or cooler boxes that have plenty of ice or ice bricks.”

Other useful tips to ensure your holiday meal is safe include:

  • Keep all poultry and meat separate from other foods
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before you prepare and serve food
  • Keep cold food chilled below 5C and hot food above 60C to prevent germs from multiplying
  • Don’t wash poultry – any splashing in the food preparation area can spread germs and increase the risk of food poisoning
  • Discard any eggs that are cracked and dirty. Ensure children under two, pregnant women, over 65s and anyone seriously ill don’t eat raw eggs. If you do cook eggs, make sure the whites are firm and the yolk starts to thicken.
  • Defrost your food in the refrigerator or microwave. Don’t leave it on the bench or out in the open to defrost.
  • Freshly cooked food that is not used immediately should have its temperature reduced as quickly as possible. Ensure you divide the food and place it food in air-tight containers to store in the fridge or freezer before it stops steaming.

Different types of food poisoning can cause different symptoms including diarrhoea, fevers, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

If you do experience a bout of gastroenteritis or food poisoning, the best way to combat it is to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and get plenty of rest.

Rehydration solutions available from pharmacies and supermarkets help replace water, salts and fluids lost during vomiting and diarrhoea.

“By practising good food safety, you’ll reduce the likelihood of food poisoning and keep the holidays an enjoyable experience,” Dr Young said.

“Lastly, if you’re still in doubt at all about food, then don’t serve it. It’s better to be safe and discard than be ill.”

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, contact your general practitioner or call 13 HEALTH for advice.

Last updated: 20 December 2019