Get the right festive feeling this season
THE gut-wrenching pain of a bout of food poisoning is not the festive feeling that you want your family and friends to experience this Christmas holidays.
That is the message the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is encouraging people to remember as they prepare their Christmas feasts and New Year’s Party nibbles during the holidays.
“No one wants to be sick during the holidays, so it’s important to protect our loved ones by following safe food preparation,” Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Director of Public Health Dr Niall Conroy said.
“The stress of preparing a large and unfamiliar meal can often lead to issues with food handling and storage that contaminates food and creates illnesses such as food poisoning and gastroenteritis.
“Food poisoning causes issues such as diarrhoea, fevers, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps which can put people out of action for a few days at a time when you want to spend as much time as possible with loved ones.
“At worst the most severe types of food-related illnesses can leave you with further complications that can lead to hospitalisation or even at risk of fatality.”
Dr Conroy said simply planning ahead was one of the most effective ways to prevent food contamination.
“Planning ahead enables you to ensure you have a clean and well organized preparation area, plenty of time to put the meal together and ensure that the meal is served as closely as possible to when its prepared,” Dr Conroy said.
“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:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before you prepare and serve food
- Don’t wash poultry – any splashing in the food preparation area can spread germs and increase the risk of food poisoning
- Uncooked meats such as the Christmas ham or turkey should be kept covered and separated from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination
- Defrost your food in the refrigerator or microwave. Don’t leave it on the bench or out in the open to defrost.
- Do not re‐freeze food once it has been thawed
- Cook all meat, chicken and eggs thoroughly
- Make sure hot foods are hot (above 60°C)
- Make sure cold foods are cold (below 5°C)
- 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.
- Cool left over food in small containers in the fridge. Food should be cooled from 60°C to 21°C within 2 hours and from 21°C to 5°C within a further 4 hours.
- 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.
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 Conroy 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.