Food is central to the festive season, and for many of us, there’s really nothing better than to relax with a delicious meal in the company of those we love. We’ve mentioned the risks associated with improper food handling and safety techniques on our blog before; while these are issues Aussies face all year round, they’re a particular concern during the holiday season. Let’s look at how you can be food safe as we celebrate Christmas.

The Christmas challenge

Most families choose to celebrate with one another in the days between Christmas and New Year, where we see gatherings of multi-generational family and friends. These gatherings might include elderly grandparents, young children, and pregnant women – not to mention everyone in between. With rising temperatures, activity in the kitchen, the fridge door opening and closing on repeat and the fridge being stocked to the brim with food, you run the risk of leaving things out. Bring all these factors together and you could easily have a case of food poisoning on your hands.

Staying food safe during the holidays

Maintain temperature control

Any food that needs chilling really needs to chill. When you shop for your food, carry a cooler bag to make sure any perishable items make it safely home. You might also consider putting these items in the cab of your car, as with its air conditioning it will be cooler than your car’s boot. Make sure you separate potentially unsafe foods from those that are pre-cooked or ready to eat. Raw meat, for example, should always be stored at the base of your fridge or in its own drawer to prohibit any juices from dripping onto and spoiling other food.

Also take care when you thaw, cool and heat. Frozen food needs to be completely thawed before cooking – unless it’s able to be cooked from frozen. If you’re serving food hot, make sure you keep it hot after it’s cooked and don’t let it drop to room temperature. If you’re cooling food, it should be cooled until no more steam rises before you put it in the fridge. Don’t leave food out for longer than two hours, or for one hour if it was cooked or eaten outside or in warm temperatures.

If you’re serving cold food, make sure you refrigerate or chill it until it’s time to serve. Ice trays and cold packs can help keep food at a safe temperature if you’re using a serving platter that’s designed to stay out for a while.

And if you have any doubt about a food item, or know it’s been left out of the fridge for more than four hours, it’s better to throw it out.

Choose sanitary seafood

Seafood is an Aussie Christmas tradition (who doesn’t love prawns at Christmas?), but it’s crucial you choose, prepare and cook your seafood safely. Make sure you’re sourcing your seafood from a reliable supplier who has kept it cool at proper temperatures. When you bring it home, seal your seafood in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. This won’t apply to live lobsters, though; they should be kept in a ventilated container.

When it comes time to cook your seafood, it needs to reach an internal temperature of 63° C before it’s regarded as safe to eat. A meat thermometer really comes in handy here. And if you’re preparing a meal with raw fish, such as sushi, make sure you use the proper seafood for the job. Sushi-grade fish has been frozen in accordance with stringent standards designed to eliminate bacteria.

Clean inside and out

Beat bacteria this Christmas by keeping your entertaining, cooking and dining spaces clean. If you’re barbecuing, make sure you scrub it down first with soapy water and give your cooler or containers the once-over too. When you’re handling, preparing or serving your meals, keep your hands clean with frequent washing, and wipe down your counters and preparation areas thoroughly. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination and illness.

If you’re handling notoriously risky foods, like poultry, soft cheeses, ham, salads, seafood, homemade dips or desserts containing raw eggs, make sure you take additional care.

Look after your leftovers

Let’s face it – Christmas leftovers are what we live for! They can even be better than the original meal itself. While we all love tucking into Christmas fare the next day, we can’t leave our food safety standards by the wayside.

Any food should be properly stored in a clean, airtight container. If you’re reheating leftovers in your microwave, make sure you use a cover and reheat it evenly by stirring or rotating it halfway during cooking. A cold spot can easily encourage dangerous bacteria to thrive – and no one wants that.

And if you do find yourself feeling unwell or have recently been sick, don’t handle food. Let others take care of preparing and serving the meals, and take advantage of this time to put your feet up and relax!

Fine-tune your food safety with the Australian Institute of Accreditation

As Australia’s leading provider of accredited online food safety certificate courses, the Australian Institute of Accreditation will help you learn and develop food safety, handling and preparation techniques. We take great pride in our overwhelming customer satisfaction and feedback. Call us on 1300 662 750.