To help people stay safe during this festive season, we're supporting the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on National Defrost Your Turkey Day today (Monday 22 December).
This day will prompt Christmas cooks to start thinking of the defrosting process in plenty of time and avoid getting caught out. A typical large turkey can take two days to defrost.
Only one in four people get it right by defrosting their turkey in the fridge. The Food Standard Agency is concerned that many risk getting an unwelcome gift of food poisoning this Christmas. Incorrect thawing provides a platform for bacteria such as campylobacter to spread, leaving you with a turkey dinner that looks and tastes delicious but contains a hidden risk that can't be seen, tasted or smelled, but can ruin your new year.
From late December 2013 to the start of January 2014 more than 3,000 cases of campylobacter were confirmed in England and Wales – an indication that more care needs to be given to the preparation, storage and consumption of turkey in the home during the festive period.
Said Kevin Hargin, Head of Foodborne Disease at the Food Standards Agency:
"We all love our turkey dinner at Christmas and this year should be no exception. It's the little things you do that can make a real difference. So if you make sure that your turkey is defrosted safely and in good time, you can enjoy your meal happily and safely."
The FSA advises that when preparing your turkey from frozen you should:
- Follow the retailer's recommended defrosting time. The size of your turkey will determine how long it needs to be defrosted for (a large 11kg turkey can take up to two days to defrost).
- Defrost your turkey in the fridge if possible or somewhere cool. Cold temperature slows the growth of germs on food and will keep it safe and fresh.
- Cover the turkey whilst defrosting, leave in the packaging or put it in a container to hold any thawing juices, and place it at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.
- Defrost thoroughly, as otherwise your turkey may not cook evenly and harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.
- Raw turkey should always be put in the bottom of the fridge until ready to use. Leaving on the kitchen counter at room temperature could increase your risk of food poisoning.
What is campylobacter?
Campylobacter is the generic name for a number of species of bacteria that can cause food poisoning in people. They cause more cases of food poisoning in the UK than salmonella, E. coli and listeria combined.
Campylobacter bacteria are commonly found on poultry meat. Between 50% and 80% of cases of campylobacter food poisoning in the UK and other EU countries can be attributed to poultry sources, mostly to raw poultry meat.1
Why it's important
50% to 80% of confirmed cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry. Campylobacter poisoning can lead to sickness including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, disability and even worse. Those most at risk are children and older people.
If you want your Christmas dinner to be remembered for the right reasons, follow the FSA's advice on the recommended safe practices when preparing, cooking and storing turkey.
- Find out more about the FSA's top tips