Christmas is a time of sharing and caring. Friends and family are embraced, gifts are exchanged, and of course, food is eaten. In a time of such joy, many forget to consider food safety when preparing, transporting and storing their festive feast.
If making meals at home, you must always wash your hands thoroughly and keep equipment clean. Once meals have finished cooking, it’s important to place them into a refrigerator or freezer once they stop steaming. Never cool food at room temperature.
Raw egg based products such as egg nog, homemade mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise sauce and desserts like tiramisu are potentially harmful and should be avoided – or bought pre-prepared from supermarkets – if possible.
If pre-prepared foods need to be reheated before commencing the festivities, it should always be heated to a minimum of 75° C. This will ensure that any bacteria or viruses that are present in the food are killed.
If not kept at the right temperature, transporting your Christmas treats can be a dangerous process. To avoid contamination during the journey you’ll need to ensure that chilled food is kept cool and hot food is kept hot along the way.
Food that is stored in the ‘temperature danger zone’ (between 5 and 60° C) provides bacteria with the perfect environment to rapidly grow and multiply. If food is left in the temperature danger zone for too long, bacteria can multiply to numbers that cause food poisoning.
If possible, you should always cover pre-made meals and refrigerate them overnight. When transporting cold food, place the meals into a cooler with ice packs. Remember that coolers cannot cool food, they can only keep cool food chilled.
As it’s difficult to keep food hot when transporting, you should avoid taking hot food to christmas events. If you must take food to your friends or relatives while it’s still hot, you can use insulated jugs, preheated with boiling water. Regulating temperatures in these situations can be difficult – so it really is best to chill food overnight and reheat it at the residence.
If your Christmas cohort don’t eat the food you prepared immediately or don’t eat all of the food at once, the food needs to be stored in a refrigerator. It’s important to remember that perishable food can’t sit for too long at room temperature.
You should have a conversation with your friends and family about the temperature danger zone and ensure that they’re being safe with the food they’ve prepared. Unsafe food doesn’t always look or taste unsafe. For pre-packaged food, make sure they are aware of the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date.
Preparing a meal for friends and relatives at Christmas is a lovely gesture. Home cooked meals can really make your Christmas celebration one to remember.
To ensure that the meals you’re sharing aren’t potentially harmful, it’s important to understand the dangers in preparing, transporting and storing food. Remember the tips in this article and have a happy and safe Christmas!