The holidays are a time for giving, loving, laughing and spending quality time with family and friends. Unfortunately, due to the number of mouths to feed and dishes to prepare, there’s no doubt there’s an increased risk of food poisoning during this time of the year. With so many moving pieces and the responsibility of feeding the entire family, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. But no one wants all the fun and festivities to come to a screeching halt because of food poisoning. We list some easy food safety tips to keep healthy this holiday season.

When it comes to food, the #1 key to keeping your family members and yourself safe over the holidays is to store, prepare, and serve food properly to limit bacteria growth. There are four main steps you can follow to keep harmful bacteria at bay and your family coming back for seconds.

  1. Clean – Wash your hands and surfaces often
  2. Separate – Separate raw meats from other foods
  3. Cook – Cook food to the right temperature
  4. Chill – Refrigerate leftovers promptly after eating

Dirty hands and counters allow germs and bacteria to spread across all surfaces of your kitchen, so cleanliness is imperative. This involves not only keeping counters wiped clean, but washing your hands before and after handling raw meats, fish, and eggs. These items, contrary to raw fruits and vegetables, carry bacteria in their raw form. Along with your hands, your kitchen utensils need to be cleaned and strictly used depending on the type of food you are working with. For example, raw meats and fish should have their own cutting board from raw fruits and vegetables and furthermore from cooked foods. Separation into these food groups allows bacteria from raw meat and fish to stay only with raw meat and fish, making cross-contamination nearly impossible.

A commonality among the majority of society is the psychic ability to tell if your food is fully cooked just by its appearance. To negate this belief, when specifically working with forms of meat, the one and only way to properly tell if your food is cooked all the way through is to use a vital kitchen tool, the meat thermometer. Moreover, there are specific temperature thresholds that must be met for different types of animal proteins. Below is a list of meats and proteins in correspondence with the temperature needed for them to be safe to consume.

Meat/Protein Temperature (˚F)
Ground Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb or Meat Mixture 160
Ground, Meat Mixture, or Whole Turkey or Chicken 165
Fresh Beef, Veal or Lamb 145
Fresh Pork or Ham 145
Eggs and Egg Dishes 160 or until egg white and yolk are firm
Seafood 145, separates easily with a fork, flesh is opaque or shell opens during cooking

At the end of a meal, food safety should linger in your mind because any leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours from when the food was served and ready to eat. If left in room temperature for longer than two hours, food has ample time to grow toxic bacteria. Generally, leftovers are edible up to three to four days in the fridge. However, anytime thereafter and you run the risk of ingesting unhealthy amounts of bacteria.

Following these four steps will allow your family to enjoy the holidays to their fullest. However, after the holidays, don’t disregard these tips altogether. They can be helpful all year round when preparing meals for yourself and your family and ensure your protection from foodborne illness.

 

Holiday Food Safety