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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Save money on festive meals and be safe with food this Christmas

Family feasts are often hugely enjoyable during the festive season, but with large amounts of food being prepared over a short period, it’s important to avoid wasting food or worse still, a Christmas case of food poisoning.

While 43% of people feel that buying presents is by far the biggest worry at Christmas, cooking Christmas dinner comes second.

According to Love Food Hate Waste, wasting food costs the average UK household £470 a year. With 29% of people preparing Christmas dinner for more than seven guests, it’s easy not to think of unnecessary food waste over the festive season.

West Lancashire Borough Council has teamed up with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to encourage people to freeze leftover food during the festive season. By planning ahead, it’s possible to do some Christmas cooking in advance of the big day and put that into the freezer.

Foods can be frozen right up the use by date. While food is kept safe in the freezer, it’s the quality that deteriorates over time, so the FSA recommends eating any leftover food within three to six months and checking for any freezing instructions on the packaging. Food should be defrosted when it is needed and eaten within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted.

Councillor Kevin Wright, portfolio holder for Health, said: “The Christmas period can provide challenges when it comes to avoiding food poisoning and avoiding wasting food. Cooking for a greater number of people can mean having to handle different defrosting and cooking times and ensuring that large amounts of food are stored safely. You also have to ensure that any leftovers are still safe to eat, all while reducing unnecessary food waste.”

To help reduce the risk of food borne illness over the festive period, the Council and the FSA recommend the following tips:

  • Cold temperatures slow the growth of germs so make sure your fridge is running at the correct temperature - below 5°C - and is not overcrowded.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, ensure that you store raw turkey (and other raw foods) separately from cooked or ready to eat food, covered and chilled on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
  • To prevent the spread of food poisoning germs like campylobacter, make sure that you wash everything that has touched your raw turkey (e.g. hands, utensils and work surfaces) with soap and hot water.
  • Don’t wash your raw turkey under the tap as this can splash germs around your kitchen.
  • Check the turkey is cooked thoroughly - there should be no pink meat in the thickest parts and it should be steaming hot with juices running clear.
  • If you’ve got leftovers, you should cool them, cover and ensure that they go in the fridge or freezer within 1-2 hours. If you have a lot of one type of food, splitting it into smaller portions will help it to cool quicker.
  • Make sure that when you come to use frozen leftovers, you defrost them thoroughly in the fridge overnight or in a microwave (on defrost setting) and then reheat until steaming hot.

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