It’s Christmas time! That time of the year when a lot of chicken and rice exchange hands. Christmas is a time for festivities and cheer. Sadly, there is typically an increase in the number of food poisoning cases around this time. This post is about how to avoid food poisoning this Christmas.
One of the common causes of food poisoning is salmonella, a bacterium found mostly in animals (and we do eat a lot of chickens!). Salmonellosis can cause serious discomfort, with symptoms such as fevers, headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting. These symptoms can start between six and 72 hours after eating contaminated food and can last up to seven days. This can quickly turn a sweet Christmas into a sour one!
In order to promote a food-safe Christmas, Food Safety Switch has decided to increase the awareness on the possibility of experiencing food poisoning this season, with the hope that most people will eat safe this year-end. You have to avoid food poisoning, at all cost, this Christmas.
So, where and how do people get poisoned at Christmas?
At Christmas, a lot of cooked food exchanges hands
Christmas is a season of gift sharing. In most cases, cooked food exchanges hands. And this is often a big cause of food poisoning. This is so because different delicacies are prepared in large quantities and are often left exposed while friends and family are being served. Large outdoor catering is known to be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as Salmonella.
At Christmas, food is often eaten far from where it is prepared
As most people are on holiday at this special time of the year, they use the opportunity to meet up. Companies and businesses are not left out: end of year parties and annual general meetings. So, you find out that food is prepared somewhere and driven to the location of the meeting. This way, unless you take extra care, you will be exposing the food to harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
At Christmas, there are lots of leftovers
There are many reasons for the huge leftovers at Christmas time. I will share a few. First off, because you really don’t know who might be visiting, you try to play safe by cooking more than enough. Then you end up with so much left overs. Looking at it another way, just as you send cooked food to your neighbor, they also do the same. So, apart from your own extra food in the pot, you still have these dishes of food from family and friends. Well you can’t complain, especially if you do send to others too! One more thing: there is always a lot of drinks. Once people have access to soda drinks, they eat less. All of these must be put into consideration when doing your next Christmas cooking.
At Christmas, cross-contamination is common
Out of ignorance, many people use the same utensils for raw meat/chicken and other ingredients. This shouldn’t be so if we are to avoid food poisoning this Christmas. Why is this wrong? Other foods may get contaminated when they come in contact with the meat or chicken juices. Remember that meat and chicken are notorious for harboring bacteria, which may be drug-resistant. You don’t want these to get into other ingredients that do not require intense cooking. You must run away from cross-contamination if you want to avoid food poisoning this Christmas.
At Christmas, fridges and freezers do not work so well
Why is this so?
On the one hand, the large quantities of food stuff and leftovers at Christmas time often make the refrigerators overstocked. Seeing as people always order more than they can handle, overstocking is inevitable, but you should note that it prevents cold air from circulating in the refrigerator. What happens is that the temperature will not be optimum for the preservation of the food and it begins to spoil. On the other hand, ‘traffic’ to and fro the fridge increases. As there are more people opening and closing the fridge/freezer, it becomes warmer than usual. Under these circumstances, it becomes difficult to regulate the temperature and bacteria have the opportunity to thrive.
I can go on and on…
How then can you avoid food poisoning this Christmas?
Here are a few tips
Ensure that that there is enough space in the fridge to keep food cold and well preserved (below 5oC) before preparing food for Christmas.
Keep hot food hot (above 60oC) and cold food cold (below 5oC). Avoid keeping food in the temperature danger zone.
When going for Christmas food shopping, make sure you take along enough non-leaking bags to separate raw and ready-to-eat foods in order to avoid cross-contamination.
Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and ready to eat foods
Prepare and handle food in a clean environment. Make sure worktables and utensils are washed and dried before use.
Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry them too before preparing foods. You must also do this between handling raw meat or raw chicken.
Being careless with fruit and vegetables can have serious consequences. Outbreaks of E. coli food poisoning can be caused by unwashed vegetables, or the dirt from vegetables if they come in contact with your food.
Prepare foods as close as possible to eating time and don’t leave snacks out for too long.
Make sure your chicken is completely defrosted in the middle before cooking. This will help it to get thoroughly cooked all the way through to make sure any bacteria inside it are killed
Cooking some food in advance makes it easier on Christmas day but make sure you divide it into smaller portions in shallow containers. This will help it to cool quicker. Keep the containers covered and place them in the fridge or freezer, ensuring that there is good air circulation around the containers.
Avoid cakes, pastries and small chops that are uncovered or have been left out for too long.
Lastly, enjoy the holiday with food safety in mind!
For more tips on how to avoid food poisoning, read about self-poisoning here: https://foodsafetyswitch.com/2017/09/15/self-poisoning-101/
Remember to leave your comments below!