With Christmas upon us, we are reminded of Santa Claus in red hat and coat, sparkling Christmas lights, colourful gifts and magnificent Christmas feasts!

In Hong Kong, we are very privileged to savour different cuisines at Christmas. If we wish to enjoy a wide variety of foods, buffet is the best choice. As Christmas buffets are on offer in many restaurants, how should we choose? That is simple and we just have to apply the 5 Keys to Food Safety.

First, choose. We should patronise reliable and licensed restaurants with good hygiene. Check whether the hygiene conditions of the restaurant are good and their staff observe good personal hygiene. When choosing foods, pick those fresh ones.

Second, clean. We should wash hands thoroughly with warm water and liquid soap before eating and after going to the toilets. Check whether the tableware is clean and in good condition and ask for a change if there is dirt or crack on it.

Third, separate. We should avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods. In some restaurants, consumers can choose raw materials they like and ask chefs to prepare dishes for them. When taking these raw foods, use designated utensils as provided. Besides, observe whether chefs properly apply the key "separate" in the preparation of foods.

Fourth, cook. Make sure that foods are cooked thoroughly, especially those cooked at the spot such as BBQ and hotpot foods. If in doubt, ask the chefs to cook the foods again until it is properly done. Juices from thoroughly cooked meats and poultry should be clear and no longer red.

Lastly, safe temperature. Hot dishes should be placed at temperature above 60oC, while cold dishes and foods to be eaten raw such as raw oysters, sashimi, sushi and salads should be put in a chiller or on ice with storage temperature at 4oC or below to prevent bacteria growth. Since cold dishes and foods to be eaten raw are high-risk foods, you should pay special attention to their storage conditions. If cold dishes are not cold, hot dishes are only lukewarm or foods look or taste abnormal, you should not eat them. Eat the foods as soon as possible after taking them and do not leave foods under room temperature for a long time.

Always bear in mind the above 5 Keys to Food Safety and never overeat at buffets. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immunity should avoid high-risk foods like foods to be eaten raw and cold dishes as far as possible.