The holidays are all about food, family, friends and more food. Many of us will be gathering around a table to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. A lot of us will also lend a helping hand to prepare holiday meals. To ensure you and your family stay healthy and enjoy the holiday season follow these food safety tips:
• Clean: Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness. Wash cutting boards, knives and countertops that come into contact with raw meat before you go on to the next item. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
• Separate: Always separate raw meats from foods that are ready-to-eat such as fruits, vegetables and salads. Use two cutting boards -- one for preparing raw meats and the other one for cutting fruits and vegetables.
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• Cook: Use a thermometer to make sure food is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Before serving turkey, side dishes and leftovers, they should reach 165 degrees F at a minimum. Place thermometers in the thickest part of the meat. For poultry, that means placing the thermometer between the breast and thigh or the thickest part of the breast. Many traditionalist like to cook their stuffing in the turkey’s cavity. To ensure it’s safe to eat when the turkey is finished cooking, use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing is also cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
• Chill: Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking. Don’t leave food sitting on the counter to cool down. When food sits at room temperature bacteria love to multiply. Divide food into smaller portions and cool in containers without lids in the refrigerator. Wait until the food is cold before you put on lids. If you’re sending leftovers home with guests that live more than two hours away, make sure leftovers are packed in a cooler with ice. Leftovers are safe to eat for three to four days. Consider freezing large portions of leftovers for later use.
To ensure food poisoning is not on the menu during the holidays make sure you follow these simple tips. For more information on food safety, contact RiverStone Health, Environmental Health at 256-2770.