Turkey a recipe for food poisoning warns health expert

The festive season is a peak time to get food poisoning - and your Christmas turkey is the prime culprit, warns a hygiene and public health expert.

Poultry will account for four out of five cases of food poisoning this Chrstmas, according to Dr. Lisa Ackerley who works with hygiene consultancy Acoura.

The problem is partly caused by people failing to cook turkey properly, so bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter can survive, but an even bigger issue is contamination from handling the raw meat, explains Dr Ackerley,

Most food poisoning in the UK is caused by campylobacter, a bacterium linked to 280,000 cases of food poisoning every year, and as many as 100 deaths. It’s present in around 75% of all fresh poultry sold in UK supermarkets today.

The bacteria live in the bird’s guts and spreads to the skin when it’s slaughtered.  Campylobacter typically causes vomiting and diarrhoea around two to five days after eating contaminated food, although it can occur up to ten days later.

But you don’t just find Campylobacter on the turkey. A Food Standards Agency report found that at least 6% of the outer packaging of poultry sold in supermarkets also tested positive for campylobacter. This means that if you put a turkey portion in your shopping bag, even if you cook it thoroughly when you get home, you still have a real chance of picking up campylobacter on your hands from contaminated outer packaging.

It takes just a few campylobacter bacteria to make you ill — and it spreads easily, which is why experts advise particular care when handling raw meat. ‘It seems it’s often the cook who gets ill from campylobacter,’ explains Dr Ackerley.

So what can you do to limit the risk of your turkey causing food poisoning?

The first pitfall is putting your turkey in a bag with other fresh foodstuffs.

Addmaster has created a new industry standard for the antimicrobial protection of the outside of fresh meat packaging to protect the consumer from the risk of food poisoning from cross-contamination. Biomaster antibacterial technology is available for film, trays and lids.

Biomaster has also developed the Antibacterial ‘bag for life’. Launched at the Food Standards Authority’s Food Safety Week in 2014, the patent pending (GB 1410284.2) carrier bag inhibits the growth of bacteria in your bag between shopping trips – as recently featured on the BBC1 consumer programme Rip Off Britain.

The Biomaster antibacterial bag for life is also available for general sale on Amazon.

*Please note that Addmaster was acquired by the Polygiene Group AB in January 2021, so all news articles prior to that date will still be branded as Addmaster.