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Holiday Food Safety Tips

Dec. 11, 2011

The holiday season is a time for celebration and great food. Don't let merriment change to misery because food makes you or others ill.

Don't Give the Gift of Food Poisoning; Keep Things Clean

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.

  • Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water before and 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.

Separate to Avoid Cross-Contamination

  • Whether shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or while preparing meals, keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked.

  • Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and another one for those that will not be cooked, such as raw fruits and vegetables.

  • Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.

  • 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.

Cook to A Safe Internal Temperature

  • 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 wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should also be 165ºF.

  • 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 egg products, or powdered egg whites.

  • Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

Chill Because Harmful Bacteria Grow Rapidly at Room Temperature

  • 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 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.

  • Thaw safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature. Cook food that has been 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.