If you’re planning to experiment with a bold new meat recipe or are cooking for a pregnant friend, an older relative or a very young child this Christmas, then heed this warning from the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC): use a meat thermometer and avoid poisoning your guests.
Although the caution might sound extreme, especially if you’re an experienced cook, the FSIC warns that there’s an increased risk of food poisoning incidents when the temperature climbs in summer.
FSIC’s council chairperson, Rachelle Williams, explains that most Australian home cooks are still measuring the temperature of their meat just by looking at their dish. Despite all the cooking skill in the world, this method is nowhere near fool-proof.
“We know from our latest research that only 25 per cent of Australian households own a meat thermometer and even fewer report using one in the previous month,” says Williams.
“You can’t tell if riskier foods like the Christmas turkey or rolled roasts are cooked to 75°C just by looking, you really need a meat thermometer.
“If you already have a meat thermometer, rummage through that kitchen drawer and start to use it. If you don’t have one why not pick one up from your local home ware shop or hardware store while you are out Christmas shopping. Thermometers don’t have to be expensive with some costing under $20 so they can make great presents too.”
FSIC estimates suggest over four million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, resulting in 31,920 hospitalisations, 86 deaths and one million visits to doctors. This year, the FSIC has focused on increasing awareness of two escalating foodborne illnesses: Campylobacter and Salmonella infection. Both health concerns are more prevalent the warmer months, as there is a heightened risk of people eating food that has been sitting at dangerous temperatures, allowing bacteria to grow and causing illness.