Sharing meals with friends and family is one of the great joys of the holiday season. But, as we all head outdoors for holiday parties, picnics and barbecues, it’s important to be careful about food safety.
Harmful bacteria and parasites can thrive in foods that aren’t cooked or handled properly. Eating contaminated foods can make anyone sick. Pregnant women are at increased risk of food poisoning, so take extra care if you’re pregnant or preparing food for someone who is.
To avoid food poisoning and have a safe, happy holiday meal, follow our top food safety tips for summer:
1. Keep hands and surfaces clean
Wash your hands before and after you handle raw foods. Make sure benchtops, cooking tools and barbecues are clean before you use them. When you prepare the meal, use separate utensils, plates and other tools to handle raw and cooked foods. After the meal, clean your benchtops and cooking tools well.
2. Rinse all fruits and veg
Rinse all of your fruit and vegetables under cold running water and then dry them with a clean cloth to help remove dirt and bacteria.
3. Keep cold foods cold
Set your fridge temperature between 2°C and 4°C. Most harmful bacteria cannot grow at low temperatures.
Keep cold dishes like salads and puddings in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. Store raw meats and seafood in the fridge until right before you cook them. Cover them and place them on the fridge’s bottom shelf so their juices can’t drip onto other food.
If you’re eating outdoors, use an icepack or chilly bin to keep food cold.
4. Fully cook meats and seafood
Cook chicken, mince and sausages right through, and cook pork and poultry until the juices run clear. Use a meat thermometer to check that your meat has been cooked to a safe temperature – at least 75°C in the thickest part of the meat.
You can take a vacuum-packed cooked ham straight from the fridge to the table. But if you like to glaze your ham and serve it hot, cook it at 160°C for 20 minutes per kilogram. You want the inside to reach at least 60°C – use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.
Eating cold ham of any kind when you are pregnant can come with the risk of a serious infection called listeria, which is harmful to the baby. Instead, cook or reheat ham until it’s piping hot (over 70°C) and eat it straight away.
5. Cover all dishes
Cover any dishes that are sitting out on the benchtop or table to protect your food from flies, ants and other bugs. Don’t leave them out of the fridge for more than 2 hours. Or store them in the fridge while your guests enjoy their first serving, then bring them back out when it’s time for the next course.
6. Store leftovers carefully
Refrigerate or freeze leftover food within 2 hours after it was cooked, sealed in a clean, airtight container. You can keep a cooked cured ham in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Cover it with a clean damp tea towel and change the towel every day.
Reheat leftovers until they are steaming hot (over 75°C), stirring well so they heat all the way through.
- Introduction to food safety at home Ministry for Primary Industries
- List of safe food in pregnancy Ministry for Primary Industries
- Christmas food safety Consumer NZ
- Top Tips for Food Safety at Christmas Australian Institute of Food Safety
- Food Safety Tips for the Holidays Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Leftovers and Food Safety US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service