New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) has launched its summer food safety campaign. The focus is on preventing people getting food poisoning by urging the public to remember what the agency calls the 3Cs: clean, cook, chill.

Some foods, like raw meat, seafood, rice, and potato flakes, are more likely to carry harmful bacteria. Bryan Wilson, head of NZFS, said foodborne illness affects about 200,000 New Zealanders every year with around half of these cases occurring in the home. Campylobacter is the most common cause.

“Campylobacter bacteria occurs naturally in the gut of animals and birds, especially chickens. It can easily be spread around the kitchen from raw meat to surfaces and other foods, and it can make you very sick unless you use good food safety practices,” he said.

“The risk is greater in the summer months as the bacteria grows faster in the warmer weather. Another tip is that you shouldn’t wash raw poultry as this helps spread Campylobacter to the hands, clothes, other food, and contact surfaces. So no washing that Christmas turkey.”

As part of the clean advice, the agency said before preparing food and after handling raw meat:

  • Wash hands, chopping boards, dishes, and utensils in hot soapy water to kill and otherwise wash away bacteria and avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked food
  • Use a dishwasher or hot soapy water to wash dishes. Let dishes air dry rather than drying with a cloth towel
  • To wash hands use soap and warm running water, rubbing vigorously for 20 seconds, then rinse thoroughly
  • Always cover stored food – even in the fridge or cupboard. Cover food when eating outside, to keep out insects and bugs and use plastic film or foil to cover foods, or put into containers with tight-sealing lids.

Cooking requirements ensure food is cooked through to kill harmful bacteria:

  • Defrost frozen foods thoroughly, or they won’t cook properly in the middle. Defrost food in the fridge, or use the defrost setting on your microwave
  • Cook poultry, minced meats, and sausages right through. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures at the middle of the thickest part to make sure the internal temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius
  • Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within two hours. Cool hot food in small portions to speed cooling, then refrigerate in covered containers.
  • Reheat leftovers until they reach at least 75 degrees C and do not reheat them more than once.

Chill guidance to stop bacteria from growing in food:

  • Don’t leave food out at room temperature. Refrigerate cooked meat as soon as possible (within two hours) to stop bacteria multiplying. If in doubt – throw it out
  • Cool hot foods for up to 30 minutes before refrigerating to prevent raising the temperature of stored food
  • Keep the fridge clean, and wipe up spills immediately. And don’t overfill the fridge – this can mean some food isn’t kept cool
  • Separate and cover cooked and raw meat in the fridge and store raw chicken and parts below ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator

Meanwhile, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) is filming a frozen turkey defrosting in the fridge live on Facebook.

A turkey needs 10 to 12 hours per kilogram to fully defrost in the fridge meaning even a small bird of four kilograms will require nearly two full days to defrost before cooking. Do not defrost the turkey at room temperature. For more tips follow this link.

Dr. Jacqui McElhiney of FSS, said the live stream shows how long it can take to defrost turkey and the need to safely prepare and cook the Christmas meal.

“You should work out defrosting times in advance, so you know how much time to allow. If it’s still partially frozen, recommended cooking times won’t be long enough to cook it thoroughly. This means bacteria that cause food poisoning could survive the cooking process and make you ill,” she said.

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