Drinks in the esky, food in the fridge this Christmas

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Territorians are being urged to heed advice about transporting, storing and preparing food safely this Christmas to avoid ruining their festive season with a bout of food poisoning.

Director Environmental Health, Xavier Schobben, explained that the hot weather experienced across the Northern Territory this time of year meant Territorians needed to stay vigilant about keeping foods at safe temperatures.

“A good rule of thumb is to relegate drinks to the esky and save the prime spots in the fridge for chilled foods such as seafood, meats and dairy,” Mr Schobben said.

“It’s important not to let foods reach an unsafe temperature between 5°c and 60°c where bacteria that cause food poisoning can thrive.”  

This is especially risky for foods that won’t be cooked again such as sliced deli meats, pate, prepared salads, cut fruits and soft cheeses.

Mr Schobben explained that consequences of a lax approach to food safety could include vomiting and diarrhoea and a generally unpleasant festive season which could lead to a hospital stay.

“People catering for a crowd this Christmas should follow some common sense advice,” he said.

 Tips for good food safety: 

  • Pick up refrigerated and frozen food last when shopping and always take an insulated bag or cooler with you to the shops.
  • Storage instructions such as ‘refrigerate after opening’, ‘keep frozen’ or ‘refrigerate under 5°C’ must be followed or food poisoning bacteria will grow quickly.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before you start preparing and between preparing raw and ready to eat foods.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by washing knives, chopping boards and cooking utensils between preparing different foods.
  • Keep chilled foods below 5°C and cooked foods above 60°C to avoid the temperature danger zone when food poisoning bacteria grow and don’t overload your fridge.
  • Don’t rinse turkey or other poultry before cooking as it spreads bacteria around the kitchen. A better option is to pat dry with disposable paper towel.
  • Cook all poultry and processed meats such as mince and sausages thoroughly. They should not be pink.
  • Don’t leave perishable foods including nibbles, like dips and soft cheeses, out in the temperature danger zone for too long. It’s better to divide them into small amounts and replenish with fresh portions as required.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after the meal. Divide into small containers so they cool quickly.

“By being aware of food safety and armed with the right food safety advice you can ensure your festive gathering is a success and not marred by food poisoning,” Mr Schobben said.

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