Before you start preparing, always remember to wash your hands! It is important to wash your hands before eating or drinking in addition to before and after food preparation. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after touching raw meats, eggs and any unwashed fruits or vegetables. Of course, hand washing also must be done after going to the bathroom, petting your dog or cat and any other situation that would require you to sanitize your hands again.
If you are making a turkey for your holiday feast, make sure to thaw it properly. Do not thaw a turkey, or any food item, on the counter. Room temperature thawing provides the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply rapidly. A great way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator, for 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. For more rapid thawing, you can thaw a turkey in a sink of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
When you cook your turkey, or any other meat, poultry or seafood, use a thermometer to make sure it’s done to the correct temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This link features a chart of various temperatures, along with other handy food safety information, including how to avoid cross-contamination, not only by keeping your hands clean but also making sure dishes, utensils and countertops are also sanitized.
Cooking your turkey to the correct temperature is always important, but a multi-state outbreak of salmonella in turkey makes it even more vital now.
In between cooking dishes, properly store the food by either keeping warm foods hot or cold foods in the refrigerator. This period in between cooking is known as the “danger zone” where bacteria can grow rapidly.
And what’s a holiday meal without dessert? Do you have fond memories of making baked goods with family over the holidays? Baking can be a great holiday tradition, but it is important to remember to not eat the dough or batter being used. Dough and batter with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs including E. coli or salmonella. Especially do not let small children eat or play with any dough or batter.
Many baked goods or other holiday favorites contain raw eggs. Make sure to use pasteurized eggs for these dishes considering Salmonella can live inside and outside of eggs. Also keep foods such as eggs separated to avoid cross-contamination which could cause germs in your refrigerator.
Women who are expecting have a higher risk of getting food poisoning. Avoid drinking beverages or eating foods containing raw or unpasteurized milk such as eggnog or cheese dips as they could contain the harmful germs like Listeria. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis, a rare but deadly infection caused by Listeria, than any other person.
When all is said and done—and eaten—careful clean-up is important too. Make sure to store leftovers in the refrigerator no more than two hours after your meal to prevent bacteria from growing on food.
Follow these food safety steps to help prepare a safe, enjoyable holiday meal. Happy holidays!