The Food Standards Agency has started a new campaign to help people store and prepare food safely. In time for Christmas, it gives helpful tips on how to prepare that lovely Christmas meal in advance. This means people can spend Christmas with their family and friends instead of slaving in the kitchen.
They give useful tips on how to cook, freeze and defrost both meals and any leftovers, saving time, money, and more importantly, the risk of food poisoining.
Freeze up to the Use by Date
You can freeze food while it is still in date. Freezing 'pauses' bacteria and other pathogens multiplying, thus keeping it safe to eat.
Just remember that the moment you take foods out of the freezer, the food will warm up and the bacteria will start to multiply once again.
To defrost, always follow manufacturer's instructions.
Remember that the outside will defrost sooner than the inside, so by the time the whole food item as defrosted, the bacteria in the outside layers have had more chance to multiply.
The smaller the food portions are, the quicker they will defrost. So instead of freezing a whole turkey, it is much better to cut it into smaller, more manageable portions. This way, the whole turkey will not only defrost quicker, it is also much safer to do so. And when it comes to cooking that turkey, all parts of it will reach safe temperatures sooner - again, this limits bacterial growth.
When cooking food, make sure it is cooked all the way through, right to the thickest part. Otherwise, if the outside is cooked well, having reached safe temperatures, the inside will stay within the 'danger zone' much much longer, giving bacteria and other pathogens lovely warmth to multiply even quicker.
Use a food thermometer to check the temperature at the thickest part. It has to have reached at least 70° for a minimum of 2 minutes to be safe to eat.
Fridge Safety Tips
The Danger Zone for bacteria is between 5° and 63° Celsius.
This means that the temperature is just right for the bacteria to multiply. As it gets too hot, the bacteria will stop multiplying and some will even be killed off.
To be certain all bacteria have been destroyed, the canning industry heats the tins to 122°.
By keeping the fridge below 5°, the bacteria will slow their multiplication down to safe levels.
Cross-contamination (where bacteria from one food, surface or other location move to another food or surface) occurs in fridges as well. So make sure to keep foods separate, by putting them in containers or by covering them up.
Keep raw meats, raw veg, raw fish etc separate from cooked and ready to eat foods at the bottom of the fridge to minimize the risk of cross contamination.