Christmas tales from the food safety helpline

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 24th December 2009

“There’s a peacock in my back yard – can I eat it for Christmas dinner?”

This was just one of the quirky enquiries to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA)’s free consumer helpline over the past year.

The answer? We don’t regulate traditional Kiwi activities, like hunting, so there are no food safety rules around killing and eating wild food. But, your catch can still make you sick if it is unhealthy, contaminated or not handled hygienically, so we’ve published food safety tips for recreational hunters and for seafood gatherers. Call the helpline for free copies or go to our website www.nzfsa.govt.nz and click on the Consumer tab, then on Hunting, Collecting, Fishing and Homekill

***

“We are cleaning out Grandma’s freezer. There’s 10 years worth of frozen goods – can we give these to a food bank?”

Charities appreciate food donations, especially at Christmas. But they don’t want food that has expired or seriously deteriorated in quality. Food is unsafe to eat after its ‘use by’ date unless it has been frozen before that date. Freezing can also cause quality deterioration such as ‘freezer burn’. The freezer should be consistently at -18°C or below. Ask yourself if Grandma had ever had a power cut within that ten years and what happened to the freezer contents then? As a rule of thumb, frozen raw chicken pieces should be eaten within 4 months, cooked meats and fish or seafood within 2 months, casseroles by 2-3 months and egg whites within 12 months. If in doubt, throw it out.

***

“Is road kill okay to eat?”

Not a good idea even if you’re the one who’s hit it and know how fresh it is. For one thing, the animal may have been sick, explaining why it’s stumbled into the road in the first place. For another, the impact may have ruptured internal organs, spreading germs throughout its body. Our advice is to leave road kill on the road for animals used to eating carrion.

***

Our favourite was the newly-wed septuagenarian who complained to police that his favourite cheese was making him impotent. Police referred him to us but we were unable to identify a food safety connection.