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How to dodge food poisoning this Christmas

21 December 2016

How to dodge food poisoning this Christmas

Turkey, roast potatoes and yes - even Brussel sprouts are about to take centre-stage on the nation's dining tables.

But with fridges bursting and a never-ending supply of leftovers to use up, how do you avoid the unwelcome guest of food poisoning making an appearance?

1. Keep cool

It's party time; you've got friends coming round; the booze is flowing faster than the tears on Strictly and you've laid out a buffet that would put Nigella or Jamie to shame.

Kevin Hargin, director of food-borne disease control at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says: "The spread is out on the table all evening getting nice and warm - the bugs are having a great time in the salad dressings, the quiches and so on.

"The best idea is to only put out the food when you need, don't leave it out all the time."

Plus you don't want to be remembered for hosting the party that ruined Christmas #mortified.

Food poisoning - the main culprits

Campylobacter - This is the most common cause. The bacteria are usually found in raw or undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

Salmonella - Raw eggs, milk and other dairy products - plus undercooked meat again - can play host to the salmonella bacteria.

Listeria - This can live in chilled ready-to-eat foods, like pre-packed sandwiches, cooked sliced meats and pate, plus soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert. All should be eaten by their sell-by-dates to be on the safe side, and pregnant women need to be especially careful, since a listeria infection can cause pregnancy and birth complications - and even miscarriage.

E. coli - Most cases of E. coli poisoning happen after eating undercooked beef (particularly mince, burgers and meatballs, or drinking unpasteurised milk.

2. Respect the bird

It's the star of the show on the day - but it's probably the only turkey (or duck, or goose) that you cook all year.

"People are not used to cooking turkey or anything of that size," says Kevin.

Defrosting a 6-7kg bird can take three days if you do it in the fridge so give it plenty of time.

And if your bird has an icy core then it might not cook properly in the oven, running the risk of having a bit of Salmonella or Campylobacter making it onto the plate.

You'll also want the juices to run hot, steamy and clear to know the bird is cooked.

Image copyrightFSA
Image captionDefrost me, cook me, eat me

3. Ice is your best friend

Christmas is time for something to step out of the shadows and become the hero it was born to be.

I am of course talking about your freezer - Hollywood is calling already.

Kevin again: "People tend to order and prepare far more than they're ever going to eat, so there's a lot of leftovers and people think you can't freeze that.

"But that's one of the big myths. It's safe to freeze the leftover turkey so you could bring it out again at New Year."


Ten people to get NHS bionic eyes

The NHS will pay for 10 blind patients to have "bionic eyes" to help treat an inherited form of blindness.

The bionic eye is a retinal implant which interprets images captured by a miniature video camera worn on a pair of glasses.

Five patients will be treated at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and five at Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2017.

They will be monitored for a year afterwards to see how they get on in everyday life.

"I'm delighted," said Prof Paulo Stanga from the Manchester hospital.

He has been involved in earlier trials of the Argus II Bionic Eye, made by the company Second Sight, in retinitis pigmentosa.

He added: "It surpassed all of our expectations when we realised that one of the retinitis pigmentosa patients using the bionic eye could identify large letters for the first time in his adult life."

This disease, which is often passed down through families, destroys the light-sensing cells in the retina. It leads to vision loss and eventually blindness.

Twinkling lights

Keith Hayman, who is 68 and from Lancashire, was fitted with the bionic eye in Manchester.

The former butcher was forced to retire early because of the disease and had been blind for more than two decades.

He said: "Having spent half my life in darkness, I can now tell when my grandchildren run towards me and make out lights twinkling on Christmas trees.

"I would be talking to a friend, who might have walked off and I couldn't tell and kept talking to myself, this doesn't happen any more, because I can tell when they have gone.

"These little things make all the difference to me."

How it works

The bionic eye implant receives its visual information from a miniature camera mounted on glasses worn by the patient.

The images are converted into electrical pulses and transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes attached to the retina.

The electrodes stimulate the remaining retina's remaining cells which send the information to the brain.Gregoire Cosendai, from Second Sight, says: "This is the first time in history that any treatment for this type of blindness has existed and now it is to be offered free of charge to blind patients.

"This is a major victory for blind people in the UK who have supported us in our six-year mission to fund Argus II in England."

Dr Jonathan Fielden, from NHS England, said: "This highly innovative NHS-funded procedure shows real promise and could change lives.

"The NHS has given the world medical innovations ranging from modern cataract surgery, new vaccines and hip replacements, now once again the NHS is at the forefront of harnessing ground-breaking science for the benefit of patients in this country."


Facebook lurking makes you miserable, says study

Too much Facebook browsing at Christmas - and seeing all those "perfect" families and holiday photos - is more likely to make you miserable than festive, research suggests.

A University of Copenhagen study suggests excessive use of social media can create feelings of envy.

It particularly warns about the negative impact of "lurking" on social media without connecting with anyone.

The study suggests taking a break from using social media.

The study of more than 1,000 participants, mostly women, says that "regular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect your emotional well-being and satisfaction with life".

Researchers warn of envy and a "deterioration of mood" from spending too long looking at other people's social media stories, induced by "unrealistic social comparisons".

If this suggests a picture of long irritable hours over a screen, depressed by the boasts and posts of others, then the researchers say that it does not need to be this way.

Actively engaging in conversation and connecting with people on social media seems to be a much more positive experience, suggests the study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

This seems to be much less gloomy than "passive" users who spend too long "lurking" on social networking websites without getting involved.

Another approach to improve well-being, says the study, is to stop using social media altogether for a week.

That's if you can resist the temptation to look at all those unbearably smug pictures of skiing holidays...

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