Food Safety Tips For Healthy Holidays

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Parties, family dinners, and other gatherings where food is served are all part of holiday fun. But this can change to misery if the food makes you and your guests sick. Consumers have a part to play when it comes to handling food in the home.

"If consumers follow the four basic food safety practices, clean, separate, cook, and chill, they can help to prevent foodborne illnesses," says Tony Drautz, Environmental Health Services Administrator with the Oakland County Health Division.

Clean - Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next. Rinse fruits and vegetables well under running water and use a brush to remove dirt. Do not rinse raw meats and poultry before cooking.

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Separate - Don't give bacteria the chance to spread from one food to another. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from all other foods while grocery shopping, preparing, and storing food. Use one cutting board for foods that will be cooked and another for ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables.

Cook - Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe temperature. To check the temperature of a turkey, stick the thermometer into the inner most part of the thigh and wing and into the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 165oF. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating and do not eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

Chill - Refrigerate foods and leftovers within two hours because bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. Set your fridge no higher than 40oF and the freezer at 0oF. Never defrost food at room temperature; food can be defrosted safely in the fridge, under cold running water or in the microwave. Food thawed under cold running water or in the microwave should be cooked right away. Allow the correct amount of time for food to properly thaw. A 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely when thawed in the fridge.

Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms are not usually long-lasting in healthy people, but foodborne illnesses can be severe and even life-threatening to older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens the immune system.

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