Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

All of us, enjoy all the food that is associated with the Holiday Season - everything from the cookies to the turkey. It is so much fun to gather with family and friends, celebrate another year and eat delicious food. For all of the time that goes into making a gorgeous holiday spread, you want to make sure that your meal or appetizers do not end up making your loved ones sick. That is why food safety is so important, especially this time of year. There are some great handouts and information available from the CDC and FDA. Food borne illnesses are a serious issue in the United States causing ~76 million people to become sick each year. The most common food borne diseases associated with meat, poultry and fish are Salmonella, Campylobacter and E coli. Pregnant women, older adults, infants, young children and those with a weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections. 

4 Steps to Food Safety

  1. Clean - Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching or preparing any food. This is the best way to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. This also applies to all your kitchen equipment and utensils - clean them with warm water and soap, especially in between working with meat and produce.
  2. Separate - Keep your meat and produce items separate. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and then use a different one for fresh produce. This helps to prevent cross-contamination. Remember to keep the juices of these fresh meat items away from any already prepared foods as well. 
  3. Cook - When you are cooking your meat and poultry items make sure that you are getting the internal temperature of those food items to a safe level. This will ensure that all the microorganisms are killed. Use your food thermometer and make sure that you insert the thermometer correctly into the food item. The AND has a great page on how to properly calibrate your thermometer and use it correctly! 
    • Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to 165F 
    • Beef, veal, lamb roasts to 145F 
    • Fully cooked ham to 140F 
    • Fresh ham, pork and egg dishes to 160F 
    • All leftovers should be cooked to 165F 
  4. Chill - Once your meal is over, getting your food put away and properly cooled is important. Your refrigerator should be kept at 40F or below to prevent bacteria growth. Any type of egg dish always needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Get your leftovers in the frig within 2 hours of them being out on the table and never defrost your food at room temperature.