Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Healthy eating health centre

Health experts 'talk turkey' over Xmas food safety

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
turkey food poisoning

8th December 2017 – Food safety experts say they want people to be able to eat, drink and be merry this Christmas but say it will be more enjoyable if people prepare and cook their turkey properly.

Two thirds of Brits choose a traditional turkey for their Christmas Day meal, but the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says as with all poultry, safety during preparation and cooking is paramount.

Dr Kevin Hargin, head of foodborne disease control at the FSA, says in a statement: "I know that Christmas can be a stressful time of year for some people, especially when cooking for a crowd. Which is why this year we have put together the 'Let’s talk turkey' guide, which offers some helpful tips on how to store, prepare and cook your turkey, and safely handle leftovers to ensure that you keep your loved ones safe from food poisoning this Christmas."


Safety begins before you get the turkey home, say food experts. They advise taking lots of carrier bags to the butcher or supermarket to avoid cross-contamination.

Be sure to pack raw and ready-to-eat food separately, they say.

Once you get the shopping home, plan how it's to be stored.

Raw turkey and other raw food, including, fish and meat, should be kept apart from cooked or ready-to-eat food, ideally covered and on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

The fridge temperature should be checked from time to time. It should be below 5 degrees C.

Staying cool

If your turkey is frozen, ensure you check the guidance on the packaging well in advance to make sure you have enough time to fully defrost it.

Never defrost a turkey at room temperature. Defrost the bird in the fridge or in a microwave, using the defrost settings, immediately before cooking.

You will need to defrost it according to its size. A typical large turkey weighs 6-7kg and could take up to 4 days to fully thaw in the fridge. Stand the turkey in a large container to catch any juices.

Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted before cooking. A partially defrosted turkey may not cook evenly and this could mean that harmful bacteria survive the cooking process.

Some turkeys can be cooked from frozen – but check the manufacturer's instructions.

Ready, steady, cook

It's the big day and the oven is up to temperature.

Food experts advise:

  • Don't wash raw turkey - washing can mean germs will splash onto your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops, increasing the risk of cross-contamination
  • Check instructions on packaging for how long to cook the bird and at what temperature - between 35 and 45 minutes per kg depending on weight.
  • Before carving, check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part and that the meat juices run clear
  • Whether you cooked your turkey from frozen or fresh, any leftovers can be used to make a new meal - turkey curry, anyone?

If you can't face another turkey-based meal on Boxing Day, your new meal can be frozen. But remember to only reheat it once.

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health