Guidance for reheating foods safely

Published: 25 Jan 2016

Reheating food is considered a good way of reducing waste and expenditure, but inefficient reheating can be dangerous.

Food poisoning affects around a million people each year in the UK, and roughly 100 people will suffer the consequences so severely they die from it.

The largest cause of food poisoning is the bacteria called Campylobacter and, according to the Food Standards Agency, is present in more than 65% of chickens on sale in the UK. These particular bacteria can cause ill-effects even in very low doses and despite its common practice, washing the chicken before it is cooked should be avoided.

Foods which are often reheated and which the Food Standards Agency list as potentially harmful include:

  • Cooked meat / cooked food containing meat (casseroles, curries and lasagne)
  • Sauces containing cream or milk
  • Seafood
  • Cooked rice and pasta
  • Foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein-rich foods

How to avoid food poisoning?

The most important thing to remember about reheating food is to do it thoroughly. The minimum legally accepted temperature for reheating of food is 75 deg. C in England and Wales and 82 deg.C for Scotland, respectively. Microwaves are commonly used to reheat food, but they will heat food unevenly – leaving cool pockets where bacteria can thrive.

A simple way to prevent this is to take the food out part way through its cooking time and stir it before placing it in for the remaining time. Every part must be piping hot.