To help people stay safe during this festive season Derry City Council will be supporting the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on National Defrost Your Turkey Day n Monday next, 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 this year, 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.

Michael Jackson, Head of Local Authority Policy and Delivery at the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, said: ‘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.’

Genevieve McWilliams, Senior Environmental Health Officer (Food Control/Infectious Diseases) with Derry City Council said  officer at the Council were more than happy to offer help and advice to the public in relation to food safety at Christmas.

“We are very keen to get the message out to the Derry public that they should make sure one of the ingredients for a great Christmas meal is good hygiene practices and to avail of the advice given in relation to defrosting turkey. We would also encourage the public eating out over the festive period to check out the food hygiene rating of local restaurants at www.food.gov.uk/ratings.

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.

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