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No one wants to make anyone sick or get sick from eating a holiday feast. The Partnership for Food Safety has a Fight BAC promotion called “The story of your dinner” to educate the public on how important food safety is when preparing holidays meals. More information and resources can be found at: fightbac.org. When prepping your holiday feast follow these four key terms: Clean, Cook, Chill and Separate to keep food safety in mind and prevent the risk of food-borne illness.
When preparing food keep hands and surfaces clean. Wash your hands with warm soapy water before, during and after prepping food. Hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds. When prepping food wash your hands after touching raw and unwashed food items. You should also wash your hands before eating and drinking. Other times you should pause and wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs are:
- After using the restroom
- Following coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose or caring for someone who is ill
- When treating a cut or wound
- After handling electronics (e.g., cellphones or tablets)
- After touching pets or pet food
- Following the disposal of waste such as garbage, animal or human waste (e.g., touching diapers)
Heat food until it has reached its safe minimum internal temperature. Have a calibrated food thermometer readily available, as you’ll want to be able to accurately take the temperature of your food at the thickest spot a minimum of two times to ensure it has reached the necessary temperature safe for serving. If cooking a raw Christmas Ham, it needs to reach 145°F for 3 minutes, precooked hams need to be heated to 140°F. If you are cooking a turkey, be sure to follow the package’s instructions for proper cooking times and temperatures. The minimum internal temperature for safely cooking poultry or turkey breast is 165°F. Also, for safety sake, stuffing should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
Keep food out of the temperature danger zone by remembering to keep cold foods cold 40°F or below and hot foods 140°F or above after your feast is prepared. Microorganisms can grow and reproduce rapidly when food sits at room temperature within the temperature danger zone. Only take cold dishes out of the refrigerator prior to serving them. Refrigerate or freeze food within 2 hours after being prepared and served. Store leftovers from holiday meals in shallow containers [< 2 inch deep]. Eat leftovers within 3-4 days, reheating them to 165°F before consuming. Gravy should only be kept for 2 days and needs to be boiled before eating.
When making holiday favorites like eggnog and cookie dough for baking follow these tips. For Eggnog use pasteurized eggs since raw eggs may contain Salmonella. When you are making cookie dough remember not to eat raw dough due to the risk of E.coli from raw flour and Salmonella from the raw eggs.
Separate raw and ready-to-eat foods when preparing [use different cutting boards], storing [ready to eat foods should be stored above raw foods in the fridge], transporting [transport items in different bags] and holding foods to prevent cross-contamination.
Use this information to safely prepare your holiday meal and have a safe and Happy Holiday Season!