Complaints of food poisoning, allergic reactions and foreign bodies in food could increase by more than half during the holidays this December, according to Food Alert.

The company, which provides food safety and health and safety services, software and training to businesses, found the number of food complaints received during December last year was up 55 percent compared to those handled during an average month.

Incidents of alleged food poisoning were the most common complaint at 79 percent, followed by reports of foreign bodies at 13 percent, and allergic reactions at 8 percent.

One mistake could have huge consequences
The two most common foods complained about were calamari and chicken liver parfait.

At this time of year venues are busier and with more temporary staff and bulk cooking menu items means the possibility of policies and procedures not being followed can be higher, according to the company. Coupled with customers, who may be more carefree with what they eat, and there is a potential risk for allergic reactions.

David Bashford, managing director at Food Alert, said while Christmas is an important trading opportunity it can pose a risk from a food safety perspective.

“Maintaining standards during the Christmas rush is difficult and all it takes is one minor mistake and the consequences can be enormous. How operators deal with issues and complaints is vital to keeping reputation intact and having watertight processes, training and supporting evidence trails in place are all absolutely crucial – and communication really is key,” he said.

“Identifying high-risk food processes and ingredients and formally conveying them to all employees, including temporary staff, is just one step that will help mitigate the number of incidents to ensure the lucrative festive period is a Christmas cracker for everyone.”

FSA Christmas advice
Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has teamed up with Love Food Hate Waste to give five tips to ensure festive food goes further but does not result in illness.

Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste. The campaign is part of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a registered U.K. charity.

There are an estimated one million cases of food poisoning in the U.K. each year.

U.K. consumers buy 10 million turkeys each Christmas but throw away more than 100,000 tons of poultry, 96,000 tons of carrots and 710,000 tons of potatoes every year, according to Love Food Hate Waste estimates.

David Alexander, FSA head of general food hygiene policy, said: “When it comes to food safety, cooking, freezing and defrosting poultry can be confusing. At Christmas, turkey is still our favorite festive food, but people often throw away their leftovers, rather than using them up in a safe way.”

The first tip is about fridge temperature and food storage, the second covers the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates, the third is on freezing food for later, the fourth is what to do with leftovers and the final tip is on defrosting and reheating.

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