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The 12 foodsafe days of Christmas

The 12 foodsafe days of Christmas

Gathering the family together for a holiday feast is as much a part of a Kiwi Christmas as pohutukawas, pavlova and presents. But it can have a downside, too.

Our southern Christmas brings with it sunny days, barbecues and picnics at the beach, all of which present risks and challenges in keeping those alfresco feasts safe.

In any one year, foodborne illness strikes more than 200,000 New Zealanders and almost half of those cases are caused by unsafe food handling once the food has been sold or in the home. For many – especially the frail elderly, the very young, expectant mums and those with low immunity – foodborne illness can be a serious health hazard.

Make sure you and your loved ones enjoy the 12 days of Christmas by ensuring you follow our 12 festive tips for a foodsafe celebration.

1. Remember the 20+20 rule: wash (for 20 seconds) and dry your hands (for another 20 seconds) using plenty of soap, warm water and hand towels or paper towels before and after handling raw meat – especially poultry – and • after going to the toilet or changing nappies • handling pets, rubbish or money • after gardening.

2. Keep your kitchen bench tops clean, wash knives and utensils and scrub chopping boards before and after preparing raw and cooked foods.

3. Defrost frozen meat in the fridge – not on the bench top. Using a microwave may result in uneven defrosting. Running a cold tap over frozen meat can lead to cross-contamination through splashing. Make sure the meat is defrosted right through before you cook it.

4. If you're marinating raw meat or poultry, do it in the fridge not on the kitchen bench, and throw leftover marinade away once your dish is ready – don't use it on cooked food.

5. Ensure your fridge is operating at between 2°C and 4°C. Many of the pathogens that cause foodborne illness grow in food at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C.

6. Keep all perishable foods covered in the fridge until you're ready to use them. Keep raw meat and poultry covered and away from ready-to-eat foods, fruit and vegetables.

7. Cook minced meat and sausages right through (meat should not be pink). Pork and poultry juices should run clear – use a meat thermometer to check temperatures.

8. If you're having a barbecue, keep raw and cooked meat and poultry separate on the grill.

9. Don't use the same plate to transport raw and cooked foods.

10. If you're taking food to a party, use a chilly bin with plenty of slicker pads to ensure cold foods stay chilled and if you need to reheat anything, make sure it's piping hot all the way through before you serve it.

11. If you're eating outside, keep all foods covered to protect them from flies and insects, till just before you're ready to eat.

12. If you're eating inside, don't leave food uncovered or at temperatures over 5°C for more than two hours.

Joy to the leftovers

Holiday meals often result in some tasty leftovers. Follow our tips to ensure you don't get sick.

• refrigerate or freeze any leftovers within two hours of their preparation

• store leftover food in a shallow container in your fridge (this will ensure it chills quickly and evenly)

• don't reheat leftovers more than once

• eat leftovers within two days

• when in doubt – throw it out.

Cooking for large groups of people requires more planning, time and attention than the usual family meal. If you've been ill in the days leading up to your Christmas dinner make sure you don't pass it on. Get somebody else to prepare and cook the food for you. Remember the 4Cs: Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill – and make sure everybody has a very, merry Christmas.

For more food safety information visit: or


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