It’s the time of year when families gather to celebrate the holiday season. No family gathering would be complete without a holiday meal, so make sure you add food safety to the menu and reduce chances of foodborne illness. Infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to harmful bacteria that can cause severe or life threating foodborne illness.
Before meal preparation begins, wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds and dry with a paper towel or a designated hand drying towel before and after handling any food. Wash food preparation surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water before and after preparing each food item.
Keep meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in the refrigerator. Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in sealed containers or wrap them securely so the juices don’t leak onto other foods. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for different food items.
Use a thermometer to check cooking temperatures, which vary between beef, pork, fish, turkey, chicken and eggs. Reaching a safe internal temperature is important to kill harmful bacteria. Use pasteurized eggs for dishes that use raw eggs. Bacteria grow best in the danger zone. Avoid the temperature danger zone by keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods should be kept at 41 degrees or below and hot foods at 135 degrees or above.
Put all food away within two hours. When it’s time to refrigerate leftovers, hot food should be placed in shallow containers uncovered until it reaches 41 degrees. Discard leftovers after seven days; preparation day is day one.
Following basic food safety practices will keep you and your family safe and healthy during the holiday season. and Websites such as the CDC Website on Food Safety and FoodSafety.gov offer more information on the above contact. For further questions contact Black Hawk County Public Health at (319) 291-2413.