News & Updates

Norval’s Festive Blog

Hello everyone,

I have a confession to make. This is my first ever blog. I’ve read many of course on various things, from science and food to travel and teaching, but I’ve never written one myself.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Norval Strachan and I’m currently Professor and Chair of Physics at the University of Aberdeen specialising in foodborne illnesses. I’ve lived and worked in and around the Aberdeen area all of my career and know it and the people well. Since April this year I have been working with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) as the organisation’s Chief Scientific Adviser.

My role is to ensure that FSS policy and decision making in relation to food safety, standards, diet and nutrition is based on sound science and evidence. As part of my work I commission and evaluate research and communicate scientific and risk advice on foodborne illnesses such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria.

With the busy festive season well and truly upon us many of us will be planning our Christmas menus. However, many of us won’t be thinking about the risks of poor hygiene in the kitchen – especially when cooking for large groups of friends and relatives. Earlier this week we launched our new Festive Food Safety Campaign which focuses on something no one wants for Christmas – food poisoning.

We carried out a survey recently which showed that 45% of Scots wash raw poultry. As a scientist specialising in foodborne illnesses this is a concern as washing poultry can splash harmful bacteria and germs like campylobacter over your work surfaces, cooking utensils and chopping boards.

Washing raw meat and poultry is unnecessary as proper cooking kills the harmful bacteria. 

Our Festive Food Safety Campaign is encouraging cooks to keep their hands and kitchens clean when preparing food this Christmas. Cleanliness and proper cooking really is the key to avoiding food poisoning. As part of our campaign we have created a list of top tips on keeping your kitchen clean this festive season. You can have a read of these at the bottom of my blog and we will also be sharing these across our social media channels over the next few weeks.

Please take some time out of what I know will be a jam packed schedule to learn more about our Festive Food Safety Campaign. I’ll also be posting regular blogs on the FSS website over the coming months so I hope you will look out for them.

In the meantime I wish you a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.


My Top Tips for the Kitchen this Christmas:

No.1: It’s simple. Wash your hands thoroughly before food preparation and always wash your hands after handling raw meats and raw vegetables. It’s the easiest way to fight off the germs. Check out the FSS website for a handy video on how best to wash your hands.

No.2: You don't need to wash your Christmas poultry – or indeed at any time of the year. Washing your poultry under the tap, in the sink, can spread germs like campylobacter which can cause food poisoning. You certainly won’t be popular with your guests, so don’t risk it.

No.3: Change your kitchen cloths and dish towels regularly as they are perfect for spreading germs. Don’t mop up any raw meat juices with the same cloth that you dry your dishes – it’s a no-no!

No.4: It’s so important to keep surfaces germ-free and a good way of doing this is by getting into the habit of cleaning as you go. A squirt of anti-bacterial spray and a clean cloth does wonders – but remember to read the instructions on the bottle to ensure you leave it long enough on the surface to work!

No 5: Make sure you allow time for your poultry to cook thoroughly this Christmas. There should be no pink meat in the thickest parts and it should be steaming hot with the juices running clear. Or why not use a thermometer? Just check it reaches 75°C in the thickest part.

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