Raw and undercooked turkey can cause food poisoning and have serious health consequences

From buying turkey to storing leftovers, there are a number of food hygiene tips that you can follow over the festive period

Roast turkey is a popular choice for Christmas dinner, with two thirds of UK households tucking into it for their Christmas meal. However, there are a number of do’s and don’ts when it comes to preparing, cooking and eating your festive bird.

Every year, there are an estimated one million cases of food poisoning in the UK. Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli). Illnesses caused by viruses such as Norovirus have similar symptoms and may well be reported as suspected food poisoning.

Andrew Ennis, East Devon’s service lead for Environmental Health, and his team work with commercial premises across the district, performing nearly 1,000 food hygiene inspections annually to ensure that the places where people eat are safe. To compare and maintain standards, they work with regional and national organisations such as the Food Standards Agency  (FSA).

Andrew Ennis said:

For many of us, it wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey. However, cooking for a crowd can be a lot of pressure, from having to think about various defrosting and cooking times, to ensuring that all the food is stored safely. Raw and undercooked turkey can cause food poisoning and have serious consequences especially for children, people already in ill-health and older people.  This is why East Devon’s Environmental Health team is supporting the Food Standards Agency in helping you to cook your festive bird with confidence this Christmas.

Any bout of food poisoning is unpleasant and it is particularly miserable to be ill over Christmas. We advise that the best way to avoid getting food poisoning is to maintain high standards of personal and food hygiene when storing, handling and preparing food. The FSA recommends remembering the four Cs:

• Cleaning

• Cooking

• Chilling

• Cross-contamination (avoiding it)

With Christmas in mind, the FSA has created a Let’s talk turkey guide giving specific advice on safely storing, defrosting, preparing, cooking and using left-overs from your turkey.

East Devon District Council’s website has a page on food hygiene and safety  which gives guidance to food businesses on how to comply with the law, plus advice for consumers about food issues.

Food poisoning is not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment, but it can be more serious in pregnant women, babies and young children, older people, and people with a long-term condition or a weak immune system. NHS Choices gives information about food poisoning  including signs, symptoms and what to do.