Want to help keep family and friends healthy during the holidays? One of the highlights of the holiday season is enjoying festive foods with family and friends. Safe handling of food is important to prevent foodborne illness. Some important tips to follow include:
· Keep everything clean. Wash hands with soap and warm water for twenty seconds before and after handling food. All contact surfaces including countertops, cutting boards, utensils and dishes should all be washed with hot soapy water after preparing food items and before preparation of another food. Fruits and vegetables should be rinsed thoroughly under cool running water using a produce brush.
· Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate and away from foods that will be eaten uncooked like salads, raw fruits and vegetables and from foods that are already cooked to prevent cross-contaminating foods and spreading bacteria that can make people sick. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for ready-to-eat foods than those used with raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and their juices.
· Cook all foods to a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria for the foods to be safe to eat. Follow package cooking directions and be sure foods are thoroughly cooked. That Christmas turkey needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. A food thermometer should be used to ensure food is cooked to a safe temperature. Hold hot foods at 140 degrees F or above and hold cold foods at 40 degrees F or lower.
· Harmful bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. Always refrigerate leftover food within two hours. The refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees F or below and the freezer should be set at 0 degrees F.
· Apply these guidelines whether preparing foods to eat at home or to take to a party or other festivity. Be sure and and heat leftovers to proper temperatures also.
Becky Varner, MS RD LD
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