Six ways to make sure your Christmas turkey doesn't make you ill - South Tyneside food hygiene experts issue advice

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Christmas Dinner cooks are being urged to take care as they prepare their festive fowl for the big day.

Turkey is the traditional centre piece of many Christmas meals, but storing, preparing and cooking the bird is not without its risks, and many people fall ill as a result of food poisoning – which can prove fatal.

Experts at South Tyneside Council have drawn up tips for avoiding food hygiene pitfalls when preparing and cooking the meaty feast at home.

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And Councillor Jim Foreman, Lead Member for Housing and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, is urging people to take heed.

Experts have issued advice on safely cooking a turkey. Picture c/o Pixabay.Experts have issued advice on safely cooking a turkey. Picture c/o Pixabay.
Experts have issued advice on safely cooking a turkey. Picture c/o Pixabay.

“An undercooked or raw turkey can lead to food poisoning, which can be extremely serious, especially for children, elderly people and those in poor health,” he said.

“There are an estimated 2.4 million cases of food poisoning each year in this country, so it’s important to get it right.

“When preparing a turkey, we are advising people to follow the Food Standards Agency’s ‘4Cs’ of cleaning, chilling, cooking and avoiding cross-contamination.

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“With the ongoing cost of living crisis, many people will also be looking to make their food go further this Christmas. It is vital to think ‘food safety’ when preparing leftovers.”

Those cooking the Christmas feast are advised to follow these food safety tips to avoid getting unwell over the festive season:

:: Check the guidance on the turkey to ensure there is enough time to defrost it fully – it could take as long as five days in a cold chiller, depending on the size of the turkey

:: Defrost the turkey in the fridge. Always defrost the turkey in a container large enough to catch the liquid that comes out during thawing. This is to avoid cross-contamination. Use a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods. Always wash hands thoroughly after handling any part of the raw turkey

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:: Do not wash raw turkey before cooking; it spreads germs onto hands, clothes, utensils and worktops. Water will not kill the germs that cause food poisoning. The germs will be killed by thoroughly cooking the turkey

:: To work out the cooking time for the bird, check the instructions on the packaging. Check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when cutting into the thickest part and the meat juices run clear

:: Cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin, not inside the turkey. A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook and may not cook thoroughly if it has not reached the correct temperature throughout.

:: Whether turkey is cooked from frozen or fresh, leftovers can be used to make a new meal – such as the traditional Boxing Day turkey curry. This new meal can then be frozen, but can only be reheated once.

For further food safety information visit South Tyneside Council’s website at

More food hygiene tips are available from the Food Standards Agency at