Turkey risk tackled by FSA

Food safety bosses are launching a new consumer campaign in a bid to cut down on the number of cases of food poisoning at Christmas.

According to the Food Standards Agency, around 80% of people wash their turkeys before cooking them, significantly increasing the risk of food poisoning.

Its survey, which looked into the eating habits of UK consumers at Christmas, found that women aged over 45 were the most frequent turkey-washing offenders and cooks in the North-East of England topped the hazard chart, with 90% likely to run their raw turkeys under the tap.

The Agency is warning against washing meat because harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger on surfaces for days.

Judith Hilton, head of microbiological safety at the Food Standards Agency, said: "Most people think they know how to prepare the Christmas meal with their eyes shut. But we've found that there are still a couple of Christmas food safety clangers served up each year. Turkey washing seems to be the most common blunder."

Results from the survey show that 17% of people are not sure how to tell when their turkey is cooked and although formal reported incidents are fairly low, 2% of people think they have suffered from festive food poisoning in the past five years.

The agency will be conducting a number of radio adverts in the run-up to Christmas to educate people about the dangers associated with Christmas cooking. Celebrity chefs Gary Rhoded and Ainsley Harriott will be featuring in the ads. A special email has also been set up for consumer to get in touch with a turkey expert on turkeymail@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk.

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