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IT'S one of the most dangerous food poisoning bugs you might not have heard of but listeria has been making headline news.

The bacterium has caused nine deaths across Europe since 2015, and 43 frozen mixed veg and sweetcorn products - from Lidl, Iceland, Sainsbury's, Tesco, and Waitrose - are being recalled because they might contain it.

The advice from the Food Standards Agency is to bin them. If you don't have them, it's still worth knowing how to keep frozen food safe.

Meat, and should kept area "Things can go wrong with the way you handle frozen food before it goes in the freezer, and when it comes out, but also while it's in there," said Dr Lisa Ackerley, aka the Hygiene Doctor, who has 35 years' experience in environmental health.

Here are some top tips to stop your freezer from making you ill: COOK VEG IF THE PACK SAYS SO Many supermarket packs of frozen vegetables must be cooked, so check the label.

In the case of the listeria outbreak, illness has probably resulted from eating thawed sweetcorn in salads and sandwiches. If it had been cooked, the bug would have been killed.

You might be surprised to find that some fruits - berries, for example - say they should be cooked, so don't use these to top your morning porridge straight from the freezer.

MAKE SURE FOOD IS SAFE WHEN IT GOES IN Harmful bacteria rarely grow at freezer temperatures but you can make food unsafe before you put it in.

If you are freezing food you've cooked yourself, be careful about how you cool it down.

fish poultry be in a Dr Ackerley says if food hangs around at a temperature that isn't cold enough (below 5C) but isn't hot enough to kill them (70C+), bacteria numbers will rise quickly.

the If you then put food like this in the freezer, the bacteria will go into suspended animation, ready to grow again when it comes out.

Get food down to fridge temperature before you put it in the freezer and split large batches of hot food into smaller ones for quick cooling.

THAW IT RIGHT It takes longer but thawing out frozen food, especially bigger items like joints of meat, is safer done in the fridge (don't let thawing raw meats contaminate readyto-eat food in your fridge). On the counter, at room temperature, you can get parts of food that get warm enough to allow bacteria to grow out of control.

Another method that works, especially for whole chickens and turkeys is to immerse them in water, adding ice cubes to keep the water chilled.

The water is getting too warm when the ice has melted - at this point add some more until the poultry has thawed all the way through.

It's possible to thaw smaller portions of foods in the microwave too, but if you do so, always go on to cook the food straight after it has thawed.

STASH IT PROPERLY If your ice cubes are jostling for space with your fish finger and frozen meat, your freezer packing needs an overhaul.

Dr Ackerley said: "Just as you would in your fridge, meat, fish and poultry should be kept in a separate area of the freezer so no contamination can get on to any ready-to-eat food."

WRAP UP COOL Tightly wrapping up your frozen food will go a long way to keeping it safe - Dr Ackerley recommends using freezer bag clips so foods can't escape or cross contaminate one another.

This includes having clips on bags of vegetables and fruit that could otherwise spread all over the freezer and - if you're unlucky - spread listeria too.

"Use proper freezer bags rather than cling film, said Dr Ackerley. "They are more robust and less likely to break apart."

the the Meat, fish and poultry should be kept in a separate area of the freezer


MIXED FORTUNES Bags of chopped frozen vegetables from several supermarkets have had to be binned
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 10, 2018
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