Beware - a killer could be lurking in your fridge this festive season.
Considering how much we’ll all eat over the next month, it’s no wonder cases of food poisoning spike in December. From the undercooked star of the show, Mr Turkey, to the eggs in your eggnog, there’s plenty to give you a nightmare at Christmas...
Chicken liver paté
Adored by overworked hosts as an ‘easy’ option to serve to guests on Christmas Eve, chicken liver paté is responsible for a rise in cases of food poisoning thanks to the trend (championed by celeb chefs) to leave it pink in the middle.
Some 80% of cases of food poisoning by the bug campylobacter are due to undercooked chicken liver pate. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pains and fever – but in the worst cases, it can cause paralysis and even death. You have been warned.
What’s that lurking in the Brie you’ve been warming up for hours? Oh yeah, listeria. Are you sure that’s flu you’ve got now or are those the flu-like symptoms from the listeria?
At its most severe, the bacteria can even lead to meningitis and septicaemia and it’s extremely dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause miscarriage or be passed on to the unborn baby. If in doubt, don’t eat it.
Time for Christmas Eve cocktails and that old creamy classic, eggnog. But as it’s name suggests, it gets its frothiness from eggs.
These days, the chances of getting salmonella from a raw egg are slim, thanks to the vaccination of chickens, but there’s still a risk, and you’d rather not have Christmas blighted by diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting and fever and, in severe cases, septicaemia or peritonitis.
Make sure you buy eggs with the red lion mark (which shows they’re from vaccinated chickens) and cook the egg for your eggnog to 160F/71C to kill off the bug.
It’s the one time any of us actually choose to eat this meat, so make sure you do it properly. If yours is frozen, allow it to defrost properly so that salmonella and campylobacter bugs don’t survive the cooking process.
Don’t wash it under a tap as this will spread bacteria around the kitchen, and think twice before stuffing it as this might stop it from cooking properly – instead cook your stuffing in a separate tin.
To tell if your turkey is cooked, check that the meat is piping hot throughout and that none of the meat is pink when the thickest part of it is cut. When you pierce it, the juices should run clear.
Once upon a time, we all used to bake our own Christmas puds rather than buy Heston’s, and we’d hide a shiny sixpence inside, which brought good luck to whoever found it in their dish.
But then came our obsession with celebrity chefs – and health and safety – and the tradition has all but disappeared.
And it’s probably just as well, as you’d rather not end up in A&E on Christmas Day having almost died choking on a sixpence. Lovely idea - potentially deadly consequences.
One of the best parts of Christmas is the following week, where, with a permanent hangover, you eat everything up – and that’s a good thing, right?
While it’s good not to let any of the festive food go to waste, make sure you do it quickly! Leftover turkey should be eaten within 48 hours of being cooked, according to the Food Standards Agency, otherwise you could get food poisoning.
So no more turkey sandwiches after December 27, OK?