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Proper Food Handling Will Make For Healthier Holidays

Armen Hareyan's picture

Foodborne illnesses ranging from Salmonella to E. coli can turn a holiday gathering into a time of misery. Each year, about a million Washington residents suffer from foodborne illnesses caused by improperly handled food.

'During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, don't forget important food safety steps,' says Department of Health Food Safety Specialist Janet Anderberg. 'Often, we feel rushed during this time of year and we take short cuts. Proper food handling is not the place to take shortcuts.'

Here are some simple safe food handling reminders:

* Wash your hands before preparing food and after handling raw meat. Use warm water, soap and paper towels. Improper hand washing is a leading cause of foodborne illnesses in our state.

* Keep raw meat and poultry juices away from other food. Bag meat separately at the store, keep meat in a water-tight container in the refrigerator at home, and wash utensils and cutting boards after using them for raw meat.

* Clean and sanitize wiping cloths before each use, especially after cleaning raw meat juice. You can make your own sanitizer by mixing one teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach in one gallon of water.

* Scrub those veggies, especially if they're being served raw for a vegetable tray. All produce should be washed under cold running water. Tough-skinned produce, such as cantaloupe, should be scrubbed with a brush or cloth during washing. Don't forget to clean and sanitize your brush or cloth, too.

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* Be sure meat is thawed. Frozen or partially frozen meat is easy to undercook. Thaw meat in the refrigerator.

* Stuff safely. It's safer to cook stuffing in a dish rather than in the turkey, but if you must stuff, do it carefully! Stuff the turkey loosely right after mixing the ingredients and use a thermometer to make sure the stuffing temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Cook food to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is thoroughly cooked. Recommended temperatures for home preparation:

* Whole chicken or turkey - 180 degrees Fahrenheit

* Stuffing and casseroles - 165 degrees Fahrenheit

* Pork - 160 degrees Fahrenheit

* Egg or ground meat dishes - 160 degrees Fahrenheit

* All other meat products - 145 degrees Fahrenheit

* Oysters and other shellfish. Make sure oysters are fully cooked when served in stuffing or other dishes. Shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw oysters should never be served to children, the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system.