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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 14:47 GMT
Turkey spells trouble in bacteria battle
Washing your turkey could cause problems
Many people's efforts at preparing the traditional Christmas dinner are vastly increasing the risk of food poisoning, according to a survey.

Stuffing the turkey - or washing it prior to cooking - are both potentially dangerous.

And one in 20 people are still eating turkey leftovers on New Year's Day - when it will be well beyond its "sell-by date".

Research already suggests that food poisoning is most likely to happen on special occasions, such as big sit-down dinners or barbecues.

However, the Food Standards Agency says there is a particular threat over the festive season.

And most consumers they surveyed displayed a woeful lack of knowledge about kitchen dos and don'ts.

Don't stuff

Most people think that the right place to cook stuffing is inside the turkey itself - but this is not the case, particularly in a big bird.

Putting large amounts of extra stuffing in an already heavy turkey means that it will not cook as effectively.

It's particularly important at this time of year to remember that nearly a quarter of food poisoning outbreaks start with poultry

Robert Rees, Food Standards Agency
Any uncooked flesh can harbour possibly dangerous bacteria such as salmonella.

The Food Standards Agency recommends cooking it in a separate tin.

The survey found that 86% of Britons thought that washing the surface of the bird prior to cooking was the right thing to do.

In fact, all this does is splash bacteria around other parts of the kitchen, infecting other surfaces and kitchen utensils.

In fact, simply cooking the turkey properly will kill all the bacteria on the skin.

Remarkably, more women than men got this wrong, although four out of five men still made this mistake.

Cold turkey

Ideally, any leftovers should be finished off within two days, although one in three Britons surveyed would still be picking at the bones beyond this date.

The FSA says that turkey leftovers should be kept in the fridge - and if re-heated, heated thoroughly all the way through, and only once.

It is now publishing a complete guide to Christmas food hygiene at its website.

Robert Rees, from the agency, said: "Often people are providing food for more people than usual, cooking things they don't often cook and storing mountains of food - this all has safety implications.

"It's particularly important at this time of year to remember that nearly a quarter of food poisoning outbreaks start with poultry."

See also:

09 Nov 01 | Health
Food poisoning linked to parties
04 Oct 01 | Health
Rapid food poisoning analysis
02 Oct 01 | Health
Blood infection kills thousands
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