Make Christmas go further

This Christmas, the Food Standards Agency is encouraging consumers to 'Make Christmas go further' by storing and using leftovers safely, as well as checking 'use by' dates. Looking after your leftovers is one of our top tips to help prevent food poisoning.

Our top five food safety dos and don'ts for Christmas 2013

1. Don’t wash raw turkey

Don’t wash raw turkey

Thorough cooking kills germs. Washing raw turkey is not needed and can spread germs.

Harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger for days in the sink.

2. Do use your freezer

Do use your freezer

Your freezer is your friend this Christmas

Freezing your leftovers can help them last longer. Once food is in the freezer it can be stored safely for a considerable time.

Use your freezer where you can, rather than overfilling your fridge. Overfilling your fridge can raise its temperature above safe levels.

Defrosting frozen turkey

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is fully defrosted before cooking it.

It can take as long as 48 hours for a large turkey to thaw.

When you start defrosting, put the turkey on a large covered dish in the fridge or in a cool place. Make sure it doesn’t touch other foods and the dish is large enough to collect the liquid.

3. Don’t let food poisoning spoil your Christmas

Don’t let food poisoning spoil your Christmas

Keep things clean this Christmas to help prevent food poisoning.

Always wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially when handling and preparing raw meat, poultry and vegetables.

Keep worktops, chopping boards and utensils clean. Always clean worktops before you start preparing food and wipe up any spilt food straight away.

Always clean worktops, utensils and chopping boards thoroughly after they have been touched by raw meat, including poultry, raw eggs, or root vegetables contaminated by soil.

4. Do enjoy your leftovers safely

Do enjoy your leftovers safely

Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within two hours, cover and put in the fridge.

Use leftovers within two days and, if reheating, do so until steaming hot all the way through.

Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.

If you want to keep leftovers longer than two days, you can freeze them instead. Once defrosted, don't refreeze the leftovers.

5. Do check your turkey is steaming hot all the way through

Do check your turkey is steaming hot all the way through

Make sure your turkey gets cooked thoroughly and is steaming hot all the way through.

When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you cut into the thigh, they should be clear.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. Only a few of these bacteria in a piece of undercooked poultry, or bacteria transferred from raw poultry onto other ready-to-eat foods, can cause illness.

The 4Cs of Christmas

Chilling

Store food that needs to be chilled in the fridge until you need it. By keeping food cold, you slow the growth of food poisoning bugs.

Don't pack food too tightly in the fridge as the cold air needs to circulate to cool your food.

Make sure the fridge temperature is running below 5°C. This can be easily done with an inexpensive fridge thermometer.

Cleaning

Always wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially when handling and preparing raw meat, poultry and vegetables.

Avoiding cross-contamination

Keep all raw food, whether it’s your turkey, other meat or vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.

Cooking

Make sure your turkey gets cooked thoroughly and is steaming hot all the way through.

When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you cut into the thigh, they should be clear.

See NHS Choices cooking turkey guide, via the NHS Choice link on this page, for all you need to know about cooking turkey safely including recommended cooking times.

Bonus tips

'Use by' dates appear on foods that go off quickly. It can be dangerous to eat food past this date, even though they might look and smell fine.

'Best before' dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it is normally safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.

Join in the conversation and ask our experts

The Food Standards Agency will be running a #FestiveLeftovers Twitter chat with Love Food Hate Waste on Monday 23 December between 10am and noon.

Tweet us your questions about how to make the most of your food this Christmas, and about food safety, using the hashtag #FestiveLeftovers. We’ll reply with answers and suggestions.

For food safety tips before and after Christmas:

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