Holiday Food Safety Tips

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Bacteria in contaminated food will infect more than 75 million people each year in the U.S., and food-borne illnesses cause more than 5,000 deaths, according to a Duke University Health System registered dietician.

Sarah Carnathan, a registered dietitian at Durham Regional Hospital, part of the Duke University Health System, says food safety begins with a clean environment.

"Be sure to wash your hands well," says Carnathan. "It's recommended that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, particularly when handling raw meat or poultry, and that you use warm to hot water, to help kill any bacteria. And of course, use soap to help sanitize. Make sure your counters and other surfaces are clean, and use clean cloths for wiping up spills."

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Carnathan said it is important to pay special attention to certain foods.

"Be careful of foods that can grow bacteria rapidly and that can contribute to causing a food-borne illness," she said. "The most common foods are ones high in protein content, such as meats, and foods that have a lot of moisture content, since that's an environment that can grow bacteria quickly."

Carnathan noted that cooks should be especially careful to avoid cross-contamination between raw meats and other foods.

"You don't want to be chopping meat and using that same knife or other utensil on your fruits and vegetables. It's also a good idea to have more than one cutting board

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