Remember Food Safety This Holiday Season

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The holidays are filled with delicious tempting treats, but the festive atmosphere doesn't provide a pass to ignore the Kentucky Department for Public Health's (DPH) food safety recommendations.

Many holiday dinners incorporate meat and poultry, a possible source of food-related disease unless handled and prepared properly. This holiday season, DPH urges consumers to be cautious when purchasing and preparing food items and to pay close attention to good hygiene practices.

"Proper hand washing is the most effective way to keep food and guests safe," said Christine Atkinson, manager of the food safety branch in DPH. "By following the guidelines recommended by DPH, you and your loved ones can avoid food-related illnesses this holiday season."

Holiday buffets, party trays or even a poorly stored turkey could be the culprit of disease. Improperly stored food items provide breeding grounds for bacterial contamination, which causes illness that affects an average 76 million people each year.

Here are a few simple food safety tips to avoid getting sick during the holiday season:

· Wash hands – Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and dry your hands with a paper towel following restroom use, before preparing foods, after handling raw meat or before eating. Clean hands will help prevent the spread of potentially illness-causing microorganisms.

· Clean – Wash and sanitize food-contact surfaces often. To sanitize utensils, immerse for 30 seconds in clean, hot water at 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or immerse for at least one minute in a clean solution containing at least 50 parts per million of chlorine (one teaspoon of 5.25 percent household bleach per gallon of water). Bacteria can spread and thrive on cutting boards, knives and counter tops. Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing.


· Thaw properly – Proper methods for thawing a turkey include: thawing in a refrigerator with a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less (allow three to four days for thawing); placing under cool running water at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or less; or thawing in a microwave and cooking the turkey immediately.

· Take temperatures – Cook at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check temperatures.

· Keep it cold – Cold foods should be kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less. After the turkey is served, immediately slice and refrigerate on shallow platters. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Use gravy within one to two days. If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality.

· Transport safely – Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

· Reheat – Leftover turkey and stuffing should be stored separately in shallow dishes or platters. Rapidly reheat leftovers to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

· Wash your hands before and after handling food. Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.

· Serve food on clean plates – not those that previously held raw meat or poultry. Otherwise, bacteria that are present in raw products can cross contaminate food.

· If you are cooking foods ahead of time for your party, be sure to cook foods thoroughly at a safe minimum internal temperature."

Remember the two-hour rule. Do not leave perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours," said DPH Commissioner William D. Hacker, M.D.