Posted: 14th November 2018
Tips for keeping your family safe from food borne illness this Christmas
First, for those who aren’t sure, I will explain the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates
Best before date – this applies to food that is not high risk and is mainly found on dried foods, cans, jars, biscuits, crisps, and mainly requires to be stored in a cool, dry place. Food will probably be safe to eat after that date, but appearance, flavour or quality may be compromised, eg. Soft crisps. Beware – many of the products carrying a “best before” date, eg. UHT milk, will become high risk food once opened or cooked and must therefore be used within the “once opened” date specified on the packaging. Rice in its dry form will keep for many months, but once cooked becomes high risk and should therefore be refrigerated
Use by date – this applies to all high risk food. High risk food includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and fresh foods containing those items, eg. Quiche Lorraine, sausage rolls, pate, custard, cream cakes. High risk foods must be stored in the fridge and should not be left unrefrigerated for any length of time (maximum 4 hours).
If you are planning a buffet over Christmas, be sure to keep high risk foods refrigerated for as long as possible before putting them out in a warm room. It is the warmth that multiplies the bacteria on food, and it is important to remember that heating the food to over 75°C is the only thing that will kill the bacteria.
After you carve the turkey on Christmas day, cool what is left on the carcass as soon as possible (don’t keep it warm for too long as this will encourage bacterial growth), and it is best to get it in the fridge as soon as it is cold. Remember that the bread sauce and sausages are other foods that will quickly spoil if left in a warm room.
Reheating those leftovers is something you need to watch. Reheating always takes longer than you think and food should be piping hot before serving. Do not reheat more than once as bacteria can become resistant to heat, so it is best to throw away any unused food at this time.
Enjoy your Christmas food, but be safe. Please feel free to ask me questions if you need additional help
Janet Cousins, (ACIEH)
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