Food poisoning is the last thing on anyone's list

Christmas is a very exciting time of year, but one thing you don't want to add to your list is food poisoning. When you're preparing any meals, it’s important to wash your hands and not your poultry. The most common cause of food poisoning is campylobacter bacteria, which can often be found in poultry. Washing poultry can splash campylobacter germs around your kitchen! Cooking the meal thoroughly will actually kill these germs, so you don’t need to wash it.

Follow the 4 Cs of food hygiene

To ensure that you don’t serve food poisoning as part of the meal this Christmas, follow the 4 Cs of food hygiene.


Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water both before and after preparing and cooking food. This will help prevent germs spreading. Wash surfaces before and after preparing raw meat and poultry. Keep your cloths, sponges, tea towels and oven gloves clean so that bacteria has nowhere to hide.




Cook food thoroughly – particularly poultry, pork, burgers and sausages. Make sure it's steaming hot in the middle. Use a thermometer and check your poultry is cooked to 75°C.





Chill leftovers and foods with a 'use-by' or 'keep refrigerated' label. Store your raw meat and poultry wrapped/covered at the bottom of the fridge, which should be below 5°C.





Avoid cross-contamination by preparing raw meats and vegetables separately, and taking care not to let meats drip onto other foods. Separate chopping boards are a good idea too. For more information on preparing food safely, visit our food hygiene guide

Doing some simple things in the kitchen during the festive season, and throughout the year can help you and your family reduce the risk of food poisoning. Nobody wants to have nasty bugs like campylobacter, E coli, listeria or salmonella on their Christmas list!

If you think you may have food poisoning please visit the NHS Choices pages for further help and information.

Don't let food poisoning spoil your Christmas

By washing your hands before you cook and not washing your poultry, you can help keep Santa and his Elves spreading the Christmas cheer.

Always wash your hands after touching raw poultry.

Avoid spreading germs by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water both before and after preparing and cooking food.

There’s no need to wash your poultry – this can splash germs.

Even being extra careful, washing poultry in the sink can splash harmful bacteria onto kitchen surfaces. This can contaminate other food, in turn making your family ill. Cooking your turkey or chicken thoroughly kills these germs anyway. So why not save yourself the time, effort, and potential risk to health by skipping the rinse? Just pop it in the oven.

Defrost poultry at the bottom of your fridge or in a cool place.

The safest thing to do is to cover and defrost turkey on the bottom shelf of your fridge. If you don’t have space, it’s fine to defrost it outside the fridge – just make sure it’s in a cool place. Colder temperatures slow the growth of germs.

Use a thermometer to check that poultry is cooked to 75°C.

Harmful germs like campylobacter can be killed by cooking turkey thoroughly. For suggested cooking times, see the instructions on the label. Remember, this is just a guide. So before serving, check the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) to make sure there is no pink in the middle, the juices run clear and that its steaming hot all the way through. It’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer to check that the thickest part of the bird reaches at least 75°C.

Chill leftovers and eat within 2 days – only reheat once.

Remember, some germs still grow at cold temperatures – even in the fridge. That’s why it’s important to eat leftovers within two days, and never after the use-by date. Only reheat food once, taking extra care to make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. And with so much extra festive food in the fridge, remember to check the temperature is between 0-5°C. If not, turn up the power level on the dial.