Is it safe to eat a 48-year-old Christmas pudding? This was the question Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped posed to scientists at the University of Nottingham and the resounding answer was….yes it is!
The programme, *‘Food Unwrapped does Christmas’ aired earlier this week and uncovered some surprises behind festive food. The episode showed presenter Dr Helen Lawal’s visit to the Food Sciences labarotories at the University’s Sutton Bonington campus where she wanted to find out if a Christmas pudding as old as the moon landings could be safely eaten, and what it would taste like.
Using a pudding made by a university colleague’s great aunt in 1969, Dr Tania Perehinec took samples and put them through rigorous laboratory testing to see whether harmful bacteria including E.coli
grew. The results showed that no bacteria grew from the pudding, which was also clear of any yeast or mould.
Tania explains why this is the case: “Bacteria can’t survive in a ‘dry’ Christmas pudding like this one. Although there is moisture there's a difference between food appearing moist to eat and the availability of water which microbes need to grow. The moisture in the food might be because of the fat or sugars that are in there, but the water may be bound up with food components making it unavailable for bacteria to grow.
It is also important to remember that our Christmas pudding had been cooked by boiling for several hours and as such the viable bacteria would also have been killed in the cooking process. In addition it was tightly sealed from the air and stored in a cool place. For commercially produced puddings it is recommened to adhere to use by dates and storage conditions appropriate to the product.”
The pudding was cooked for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker before Helen and Tania had a taste. And whist the results were clear that it was perfectly safe to eat, opinion was divided on whether or not it tasted good!
*The Christmas pudding segment appears 41 minutes into the programme.
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