Food safety can be a problem at holidays with the amount of food that is prepared and the number of places where people bring food to special gatherings.
We have Christmas potlucks at all three of our houses and are diligient about keeping our resident safe. CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food every year. 1
As you attend our potlucks or enjoy meals with friends and family this holiday season, take a look at these tips to keep everyone safe from food poisoning:
Wash your hands and surfaces often. It’s not enough to just wash your hands at the beginning of your food prep. Wash your hands with a good anti-bacterial to start, and do it a couple more times especially as you go from one food type to another.
- Make sure you wash fresh produce thoroughly.
- Having kids in the kitchen helping with the prep can be fun and education. But keep an eye on them to watch out for them touching different items or putting their hands to their mouths.
Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate
Germs, bacteria and viruses can spread quickly between various types of food, which is why you should keep them as separate as possible throughout the whole process of preparing and serving food.
- Use a separate cutting board when working with raw meats, like poultry or seafood. You could flip the cutting board over if you’re running out of them. Or take the time to wash them with hot soapy water.
- At the grocery store, be sure to separate raw meat, poutry, and seafood juices from your other food items, especially raw produce. Do the same in your fridge.
Cook: To the Correct Temperature
We like to think that we can tell when something’s done but we need to be more objective when look raw meats and seafood. Invest in a good meat thermometer before you start your holiday cooking.
- Use a food thermometer and follow temperature guidelines for safe cooking. Don’t rely on how the food looks to determine if it’s cooked enough. Here is a handy chart for food temperatures
- Use cooked leftovers within four days and reheat them thoroughly to 165 F or above. A good practice is to reheat leftovers in smaller portions so they are thoroughly reheated.
- Refrigerate your turkey and stuffing separately, and put them in the fridge or freezer as soon as you can after the meal.
- If you are offering seafood as an appetizer, put them in a bowl with a bowl of ice to keep them chilled.
- Don’t thaw your food at room temperature. Run under cold water, in a microwave, or in a fridge that’s set at under 40 degrees.
- Throw out food that’s been left out more than two hours that might pose a health threat. The same is true for leftovers in your fridget that smell funny. It’s better to lose the food that getting food poisoing.
- Dividing your food into shallow containers or a flattened freezer bag will help them chill more quickly.
- Purchase cold foods like meat and poultry at the end of your shopping trip and get them home to your fridge or freezer as soon as possible.
It may sound like we’re being a little paranoid here but all these steps are good practices to keep you safety, and to keep your loved ones safe.