Festive food

Published on 26 November 2021


The holiday season is traditionally a time we spend with family and friends; a joyful and sometimes hectic period when we cook, eat and drink a bit more than usual.

It is also a particularly high risk season for food poisoning. Warmer temperatures coupled with preparing and cooking large amounts of food at home, can present a challenge for food safety, particularly with our most vulnerable groups - the elderly, very young and pregnant women.

There are a number of steps you can take to ensure the food you serve this festive season is safe.

Temperature control

  • Avoid overcrowding the fridge as this prevents air from circulating. To free up space, limit the amount of perishable foods that are purchased in advance. Keep a thermometer inside the fridge and ensure that the temperature remains at or below 5C. Consider using an Esky with ice for drinks to provide space for perishable food in the fridge; or if you have a camping fridge, plug it in and take advantage of the extra space.
  • Raw foods such as uncooked meats, unwashed fruits and vegetables and raw eggs should be stored on shelves below ready to eat foods to minimise the risk of cross contamination.
  • Try to limit the time that perishable foods are out of refrigeration. Take a cooler bag when shopping and place perishable foods into the fridge as soon as possible.
  • Be mindful of the time that food platters have been out of refrigeration and ensure that perishable foods are disposed of after four hours out of refrigeration. If unsure, when in doubt, chuck it out.
  • Hot foods must be kept hot after thorough cooking and the temperature not allowed to drop and be left at room temperature.

Preparing and cooking

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you start preparing foods and always between handling of raw and ready to eat foods to avoid cross contamination. Chopping boards and benches should also be washed thoroughly between uses.
  • The safest way to defrost meats is in the fridge and ensure it is fully defrosted before cooking. Any stuffing can slow down the cooking process.
  • If cooking outside, the barbecue, cooking equipment and utensils should be washed thoroughly before use.
  • Poultry, minced meats, sausages, tenderised or rolled meats and other pre-packaged meat should be cooked until they reach 75°C in the centre using a thermometer and the juices run clear. Steaks and other solid pieces of meat can be cooked to your preference e.g. rare, medium rare etc.

Leftovers - the best bit

  • Leftovers are always a welcome consequence of any festive meal - turkey and stuffing sandwich anyone? Always store perishable leftovers in clean, covered containers in the fridge and use them within two - three days. If reheating food, reheat thoroughly and use a thermometer to ensure the food reaches 75°C.

Tasting Australia Patron (outgoing Festival Director) Simon Bryant provided us with some recipes a while back to help use up ingredients such as chicken, corn and eggs; we've repurposed those here as they may provide some helpful ideas to use up leftovers. 

Download Simon's recipes.(PDF, 338KB)

If you are feeling ill, especially with gastro symptoms, you should leave the food preparation to someone else. This will help to ensure that you don't pass on your illness to your family and friends.