Families are being urged to be extra vigilant about food safety during the festive season by Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

The agency has launched a campaign encouraging people to make sure they are following good food safety practices to minimize the chance of being ill during the holiday period and not giving — or getting — food poisoning.

The message is being delivered — via advertising on social media and radio, and on billboards — using a series of images showing people suffering from food poisoning, under the headline: “Christmas isn’t so magical with food poisoning.”

An FSS survey found many consumers admit to risky behaviors that can lead to food poisoning.

Only a third of 1,016 respondents said they always read information on food labels; just 12 percent use a food thermometer when cooking; and nearly two-thirds believe they are unlikely to get sick from food prepared in their own home.

Almost four in 10 had heard of Campylobacter and most know a bit about it. The most common approach to defrosting frozen meat or poultry was leaving it at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator. Another negative behavior was smelling food rather than using use-by dates. Contaminated or “bad” food cannot be identified by sight or smell.

Serious message
Emma Agnew, senior scientific advisor at FSS, said the campaign plays on the theme of Christmas being the most magical time of the year while carrying a very serious undertone.

“We want to remind everyone in Scotland to remain super-vigilant to the risks of food poisoning this festive season, especially for those more at risk of severe or even life threatening cases of food poisoning, such as the elderly, young children and those with weakened immune systems.

“Our checklist provides top tips anyone might want to know about safe cooking, by highlighting good food safety behaviors and the best ways of making you less likely to get or pass on food poisoning.”

The FSS has produced a Christmas food safety checklist highlighting the best ways of reducing the risks of food poisoning.

The list includes recommending everyone cook their Christmas turkeys to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) in the thickest part of the bird. Any leftovers should be stored in containers in the refrigerator within two hours and eaten within two days or frozen. Another tip is checking and following use-by dates on all food when planning and cooking during the holidays. The refrigerator should be between zero to 5 degrees C (32 to 41 degrees F).

Maree Todd, minister for public health, women’s health and sport, said: “With the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, I know we will be looking forward to celebrating during this special time of year. The practical advice being given will help keep us healthy and well over the coming festive season.”

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