The winter holidays are frequently the time of the year when people come together to celebrate with family and friends. It is important to follow some basic food safety tips to ensure these celebrations do not result in foodborne illness.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Wash before handling food, after handling raw foods, after using the toilet or handling diapers, and after touching pets.
- Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat away from other foods and store it in a pan in the refrigerator. Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables. Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counters before and after use. Wipe up meat drippings with paper towels. Use a clean spoon for each taste test.
- Thoroughly wash all produce to reduce contamination. Do NOT rinse raw meats or poultry before cooking as this can spread bacteria.
- Keep hot foods hot. Keep cooked hot foods at 140°F or more by utilizing a 200-250°F oven, crockpots, or hot plates.
- Keep cold foods cold. Keep cold foods at 40°F or below by using coolers. Ensure there is plenty of clean ice. Serve perishable foods in small portions that will be used quickly and keep the foods on ice if they will be out for more than 2 hours.
- Ensure foods are cooked to proper temperature. The only way to know for sure is to use a thermometer! Cook: fish, meat and pork to 145°F; ground meat to 155°F; and chicken, turkey, stuffed meats and dressing to 165°F. (It is best to cook the stuffing separately).
- Take proper care of your leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of service. Break leftovers down into smaller portions and place in shallow pans to facilitate cooling. Eat leftovers within 4 days and reheat cooked foods to 165°F (gravy to rolling boil) before serving.
- Serve pasteurized eggnog and apple cider to reduce risk.
- A sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon of regular unscented bleach with 1 gallon of water can be used after cleanup to help kill germs.
- Thaw meat safely by planning ahead. It takes about 1 day to thaw 4-5 lbs. of meat in a refrigerator. Thawing in a refrigerator is best, but instructions on other methods of thawing safely can be found at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Turkey_Basics_Safe_Thawing/index.asp.
For more information see the "Ask Karen" webpage at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/ask_karen/) or the Division of Occupational Health and Safety Food Safety webpage (http://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/HealthAndSafety/food/Pages/food_safety.aspx.
This information brought to you by the NIH Office of Research Services, Division of Occupational Health and Safety.