As we approach the festive season, most of our fridges are chock-a-block with food and drinks to enjoy with family and friends. Of course, it’s important not to poison our loved ones, so when it comes to preparing and serving food, we want to make sure you’re doing it right. This is especially crucial in the land down under, as the weather warms up and creates a lovely home for potentially hazardous micro-organisms in our food. Yummeh.

The CSIRO helped us out by busting a few common food safety myths.

Myth #1: Defrosted frozen meat cannot be refrozen

Busted. From a safety point of view, the CSIRO tells us, it’s fine to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below. To err on the side of caution though, please make sure your fridge was running at this recommended temp or below – you may not be your mother-in-law’s biggest fan, but salmonella isn’t a nice Christmas present. Go for the hand cream instead.

Myth #2: Wash meat before you prepare/cook it

Bah-bow. It’s not a good idea to wash your meat and poultry before you cook it – firstly, because it’s not necessary, but secondly because you might accidentally splash that water full of hazardous bacteria around the kitchen, onto ready-to-eat foods or food prep services. This could lead to a serious case of the voms (or worse).

Myth #3: Hot food can be left out to cool completely before putting it in the fridge

#guilty. The CSIRO tells us it’s not okay to leave perishable food out for an extended time or overnight before putting it in the fridge (oops, raise your hand if you’ve been there, done that, snacked on a cold sausage at midnight). Micro-organisms grow rapidly in food at temperatures between 5° and 60°C, meaning it should spend as little a time as possible in that danger zone. This includes hot leftovers, which should go into the fridge within about 30 minutes. So in an ideal world, leftovers need to be tidied away before you sit down to eat.

Myth #4: The ole sniff test

If it smells okay, then it’s good to eat, right? Not so much. Spoilage bacteria, yeasts and moulds are the usual culprits for making food smell off or go slimy (ew). While these guys might not make you sick, pathogenic bacteria (capable of serving up a range of infectious diseases) can grow in food and not cause any obvious changes. Sneaky? Sure. Dangerous? Most definitely. This means we could be eating off food without even knowing it. The best way to prevent foods taking a turn for the worse is to refrigerate them and make sure you always check the use by date.

So what’s the moral of the story? Keep food out of the danger zone this festive season to reduce the risk of poisoning your guests (and yes, that includes your mother-in-law’s eggnog). Check out other food safety tips and resources from CSIRO and the Food Safety Information Council.