Food Safety During the Holidays!
With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is important to remember to practice proper food safety while preparing or handling food. Foodborne illness causes an estimated 76 million people to become sick each year. Most people become sick by eating contaminated foods or beverages. Food is always an important part of holiday festivities, but holiday meals can take a turn for the worse if food safety isn’t a regular ingredient in preparing and cooking the food.
The USDA and FoodSafety.gov have identified four basic guidelines that you can follow during your holiday meal preparations, as well as anytime you prepare food. Remember clean, separate, cook, and chill.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
- Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
- Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and countertops.
- When shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or preparing meals; keep foods that won’t be cooked, separate from raw eggs, meat, poultry or seafood – and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
- Consider using one cutting board for foods that will be cooked and another one for those that will not.
- Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165°F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should also be 165°F.
- Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized products, or powdered egg whites.
- Don’t eat uncooked dough which may contain raw eggs.
- Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods – and any type of food that should be refrigerated, including pie – within two hours.
- Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Check both periodically.
- Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave – never at room temperature. Cook food thawed in cold water or in the microwave immediately.
- Allow enough time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20 pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
- Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Leftovers should be used within three to four days, unless frozen.
More information on food safety during the holidays can be found at the link below.