The cost of food is the main concern for people this Christmas but safety is still important, according to a survey.

Research from safefood revealed that almost 4 in 10 people in Ireland are concerned about getting Christmas dinner right. The group safefood promotes food safety and nutrition in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The cost of food is concerning for 52 percent of respondents. A total of 9 percent are worried about overcooking turkey and 6 percent about undercooking it and not being sure if it’s safe to eat. Other issues include getting all food to the table hot and leftovers going to waste.

The research was commissioned by safefood as part of the annual Trust the Meat Thermometer campaign. Advice is to use a thermometer to ensure that turkey is cooked through to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F). Stuffed turkeys need more cooking time.

Linda Gordon, chief specialist in food science at safefood, said her main recommendation is to use a meat thermometer.

“They are affordable, easy to use, and add that extra layer of reassurance when making sure that foods like turkey is safely cooked. Whatever cooking method, timings or recipes used; you will know the turkey will be ready to eat when you take it out of the oven and pop the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat between the breast and leg and it reaches 75 degrees C,” she said.

Cooking and storage advice
The research was conducted through an online survey in the Republic of Ireland of 1,013 adults in November. While 41 percent plan to cook the same size turkey as last year, 18 percent will opt for a smaller turkey, and 10 percent for a turkey crown.

Chef Adrian Martin said people are also worried about managing leftovers this Christmas.

“My advice is to place cooked leftovers in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Once refrigerated, they should be eaten within three days. In advance of food prep, I suggest getting the fridge festive-ready and fresh with a good clean. My next step is to check the cooking calculations and form a plan for your day,” he said.

In Northern Ireland, 55 percent of people said the cost of food was their biggest concern.

The poll of more than 500 adults revealed 4 percent of households won’t be buying a turkey this year despite usually doing so at Christmas. People are also concerned about getting food to the table while it is hot and undercooking or overcooking turkey.

Previous research found that almost 80 percent of Northern Ireland’s home cooks didn’t know the correct temperature their Christmas turkey must reach to be cooked safely. This puts people at risk of food poisoning. 

Tips for safe food include defrosting by allowing 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds or 1.8 to 2.2 kilograms of frozen turkey. It’s thawed when the body is soft, the legs can be moved and there are no ice crystals in the cavity. The agency also advised against washing meat because that can spread bacteria to the sink and kitchen surfaces.

Scottish checklist
Meanwhile, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has shared tips and advice to help people avoid food poisoning over the festive period.

A recent survey revealed that just 11 percent of consumers check food is cooked to a safe temperature with a thermometer, 21 percent will eat chicken or turkey which is pink or has pink or red juices, and 60 percent think they’re unlikely to get sick from food prepared at home.

A Christmas checklist includes recommending people cook their turkey to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) in the thickest part of the bird. Leftovers should be stored in containers in the fridge within two hours and eaten within three days or frozen. It is also important to follow use-by dates on food.

Jane Horne, head of the food protection science and surveillance branch at FSS, said: “Food poisoning can be terrible for anyone, but it can be more severe for those at higher risk, such as the elderly, young children, and those with weakened immune systems. We would urge everyone in Scotland to check out our Christmas food safety checklist. Even if you are not doing the cooking, there are food safety tips in there which can help you avoid food poisoning.”

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