TURKEY'S UP: Will you have turkey for Christmas?
TURKEY'S UP: Will you have turkey for Christmas? Bob Ingelhart

12 food-handling tips to stay bug-free this Christmas

WE ALL know about the partridge and pear trees, but what about the three days struck down with gastro?

From ham left out too long to stacking the fridge incorrectly, Christmas is a time of celebration, but also a time of increased risk of food poisoning if you don't follow some basic rules.

The Queensland Health Department's executive director of the Health Protection Branch, Sophie Dwyer, released the 12 golden rules to avoid being struck down with stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhoea instead of a standard food coma.

We've also provided a few of our thoughts on the rules.

1. Never use cracked or dirty eggs. Always purchase eggs from a reputable supplier and ensure each one is individually stamped. This is a no-brainer. Everyone knows never use dirty eggs and if they smell...they're out.

2. Prepare raw or lightly cooked egg dishes such as eggnog, mayonnaise, aioli, custard and tiramisu as close as possible to consuming and refrigerate below 5°C. Dispose of these left-over foods after 24 hours. You're dicing with death if you trust Nan's home-made custard more than three hours after dessert has been served anyway.

3. Seafood should be purchased from a trusted supplier, transported home on ice and refrigerated immediately. This is debatable. If you've caught some yourself and you know what to look for in terms of disease etc, it's hard to beat cooking your own, but extreme caution is advised when dealing with seafood. Seafood and sun without cooling does not mix. Ever.

4. Turkeys must be fully defrosted in the fridge before cooking and juices should run clear when your bird is 'cooked through'. Stick to charcoal chook and you won't go wrong.

5. Stuffing slows down cooking and cooling, and may be unsafe if not cooked thoroughly, so it is best cooked separately. See above.

6. Make sure your raw Christmas meats and seafood are stored correctly at the bottom of your fridge so that juices can't drip on to ready to eat food like salads or desserts. This is amateur hour stuff, seriously. Desserts at the top, then the salads, then your meats. If you don't know this you don't deserve a fridge.

7. Refrigerate all cut fruits and vegetables. Probably playing it pretty safe here. We all know this is one rule that will be diced with. Especially when it comes to the pavlova.

8. Don't consume unpasteurised milk - it is unsafe. Very sound advice.

9. Don't overfill the fridge; ice your soft drinks and alcohol in an esky to leave plenty of room for seafood and other perishables in the fridge. Aside from the fact there is no such thing as an over-full fridge, there is some merit in this one. Seafood and perishables in the fridge is a no-brainer and having the grog on ice, eskied up is a good idea. It's also a shorter trip to refill too if the esky is next to you.

10. Always wash your hands before handling food and don't prepare food when you're sick. Come on. They're your family. Don't be disgusting, wash your hands and do the right thing.

11. Separate raw and ready-to-eat foods. As tempting as it is to throw the frozen chops in with the defrosted ones...don't.

12. Wash fruit and vegetables under running water and dry with a paper towel just before eating. Another one we expect will probably be flirted with, but it's still a good idea. You don't want pesticides and chemicals for the sake of being lazy do you?


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