Food for thought on how to avoid an undercooked dinner — or illness

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Scottish Christmas cooks are being urged to follow simple safety tips when preparing food in the home over the festive season.

A new campaign by The Food Standards Scotland Agency launched this week is hoping to encouraging people to make sure food poisoning is the last thing on their list.

Despite 43,000 food poisoning infections, 5,800 GP visits and 500 hospital admissions across the country every year, figures show three quarters of Scots (78 per cent) think they’re unlikely to fall ill from food they’ve prepared in their own home.

The campaign uses tongue-in-cheek humour to get food safety messages across, and features Santa Claus stricken by a bout of food poisoning.

Shoppers and commuters across Scotland will also be targeted with food safety advice over the next two weeks with elves handing out campaign materials featuring useful tips.

It’s hoped the advice will lead to more people following the Four Cs of food safety: cleaning, cooking, chilling and avoiding cross-contamination, with specific advice on the storage, preparation and cooking of turkeys and leftovers.

Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive of Food Standards Scotland warned poor preparation and cooking larger meals than normal is what can lead to illness.

He said: “Christmas is a time for all the family to come together and enjoy themselves, and food plays an important part of that.

“Home cooks are usually preparing larger quantities of food - from party snacks to turkey roast dinners. When you’ve got a lot to do in the kitchen and in a hurry you can take your eye off the ball when it comes to hygiene, and when that happens there’s more scope for things to go wrong.”

Research shows two-thirds of people learn to cook from a family member (77 per cent), suggesting good hygiene and food safety habits can be learned and passed down through generations.

Geoff Ogle said there are a number of simple things that people could do to help reduce food poisoning.

He added: “These should include allowing time to defrost your turkey in the bottom of your fridge or somewhere cold: large turkeys can take a couple of days. If it’s not completely de-frosted, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to put it in the sink with warm water - that’s a disaster waiting to happen!

If your bird is not thoroughly defrosted it can mean inconsistent cooking which won’t get rid of bugs like campylobacter which can cause illness.

Always use different chopping boards for meat and vegetables and don’t be tempted to just wipe them down. They need a wash in hot soapy water to ensure proper cleanliness.