Exeter City Council has released advice on food hygiene in the run up to Christmas to help make sure let the UK’s number one food poisoning bug doesn’t ruin celebrations this year.
As part of that advice the Council will be posting its top tips on Twitter as part of its '12 Tweets of Christmas'.
"Campylo-what?', is the usual question our environmental health officers get asked when dealing with many of the 231 cases of food poisoning that were reported to us last year," said Cllr Greg Sheldon, Lead Councillor for Environment and Leisure.
"Most people when asked to name a food poisoning bug come up with Salmonella, yet this bacteria, once famously associated with eggs and poultry, now makes up only around 12% of cases notified to the Council. Campylobacter accounts for almost three-quarters - 171 cases reported in last year alone."
Not everybody suffering from food poisoning visits their doctor, leading the Food Standards Agency to estimate that, in 2009, 371,000 people in England and Wales suffered from Campylobacter. 17,500 of those ended up in hospital; tragically, 88 died.
Campylobacter is a bacteria found in cattle, sheep, pigs and birds. It is believed that birds are the best host because of their higher body temperature. So, as far as food is concerned people need to be particularly careful when handling raw chicken or turkey. A recent survey carried out by the Food Standards Agency showed that over three-quarters of whole UK-reared raw chickens were contaminated with Campylobacter at the point of sale.
This however, shouldn’t be a problem if people cook their poultry thoroughly because Campylobacter is easily killed by heat. In fact, poultry itself is rarely the final cause of food poisoning from this bug; the greater risk is the contamination of ready to eat foods – preparing salad on a chopping board previously used for raw poultry, for example, or handling raw poultry and then ready-eat-foods without washing hand or utensils in between.
Some ten million turkeys will be served up this Christmas and more than one in ten of us will be catering for over ten people at home. That’s a lot of food to prepare in a domestic kitchen. With fridges bursting at the seams and ovens working overtime, now is not the time to put family and friend’s health at risk. Food poisoning isn’t a present that anybody wants for Christmas; to avoid it, some good points to remember are:
• keep raw meat, especially poultry, well away from ready-to-eat foods during shopping, transport, storage and preparation;
• don’t wash poultry before cooking it – this can spread bugs like Campylobacter around the kitchen;
• cook all meats, especially poultry, thoroughly – chicken and turkey mustn’t be pink when cut and, if pierced, their juices should run clear;
• wash your hands before and after handling foods, especially if you’ve touched raw meat and poultry.