Christmas isn’t Christmas without food. It’s a time to enjoy the company of loved ones in the sunshine, eat and be merry. At the Australian Institute of Accreditation, we understand it’s all go go go! at this time of year – things can get a little hectic to say the least. Your first priority is to keep on top of food safety. Kitchens are getting steamy (especially as we reach the height of summer) and time is of the essence. In this post, we will take you through some of the ways you can ensure it’s a happy Christmas and not a miserable one.

As soon as deliveries arrive, put them away immediately

You’ve spent hours preparing your food order, going through all the necessary requirements to serve those all-important delicious meals… once it arrives – put everything away swiftly. Be particularly careful with high-risk foods getting left out.

Here are examples of high-risk foods to consider:

– Seafood; including fish, shellfish and invertebrates
– Both cooked and raw meat; poultry – turkey and chicken, and anything containing them (i.e., pies, soups, casseroles)
– Dairy products, such as creams and dessert (i.e., cheesecakes and custard)
– Eggs and products made with egg for example eggnog
– Ready-prepared salads e.g., coleslaws, potato salads and rice salad
– Ready-prepared fruit salad
– Cooked pasta and rice
– Ready-prepared food such as sandwiches, pizza, sausage rolls etc.

Food that is stored in jars, cans and packaging can also become high-risk once opened and should be approached with caution – store them away correctly and handle with care.

Be seafood smart

Seafood is an Aussie favourite, especially during the holiday season. We can’t get enough of it at this time of year. It’s important to protect your customers (and your reputation) from any unwanted seafood poisoning by ensuring you have the right processes in place. First of all, make sure you are ordering seafood from a well-known and reputable supplier. Once your seafood arrives, it should be kept in an airtight container and live lobsters need to be stored in ventilated containers.

When it comes to cooking seafood, it must reach an internal temperature of 63°C before customers can eat it. If sushi is on the menu, make sure you order sushi-grade fish, which would have been frozen in compliance with strict standards, designed to get rid of bacteria.

Properly train your staff

As I am sure you’re already aware, Christmas can be the busiest time of the year. This means recruiting additional staff. If you employ casual staff, assume they don’t have experience in clean premise and equipment protocols. Here is a list of important questions you and your staff need to keep front of mind throughout the holiday period:

– Do all staff know, understand and apply the 2 Hour/4 Hour rule?
– Do staff wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water between duties?
– Are all areas clean? Are they tidy?
– Do staff use cooking tongs and gloves when prepping food and are they separating them for different dishes?
– When food is being prepared, are staff taking the necessary precautions to avoid cross-contamination?
– Are you serving your foods steaming hot?
– When refrigerating foods, do they feel cold to the touch?
– Are cooked and raw foods kept separate during preparation and serving?

Finally, all cooked items that haven’t been chilled, for example, hot food cabinets, home-delivered and takeaway food, need to be kept steaming hot. Chilled food needs to be displayed in correctly managed refrigerated cabinets or on ice.

Salad/dessert bars and self-service

Whether you have a full buffet or a small salad and/or dessert bar, food safety is crucial.

Serve hot food when it is steaming, over burners or on food displays. The exception to the rule is if you have a buffet, when short periods of time at room temperature is ok. Chilled food needs to be on ice or in refrigerated cabinets. Again, shorter periods of time where the food is kept at room temperature is ok.

It might seem like an obvious one but do not taste or touch the food you have out on display. If a member of staff is seen doing this, ensure the right processes are in place to avoid it happening again.

The Four Christmas ‘Cs’

Here are four important ‘C’s for you to remember this Christmas:

– COVER and separate raw food from cooked food
– CLEAN hands regularly and always before handling food, chopping boards or surfaces, clean utensils and equipment and separate the chopping boards used for cooked foods and raw meats
– COOK meats to an internal temperature of at least 75°C to ensure it is steaming hot
– CHILL food to avoid deterioration and spoilage.