►► Four steps for safe food handling during the holiday season
The U.S has one of the safest food supplies in the world.
However, disease-causing bacteria can contaminate food, causing illnesses also known as “food poisoning”.
Is it common? – In fact, there are 48 million cases of food-borne illnesses each year. Among those million cases, 128, 000 leads to hospitalizations and 3,000 lead up to deaths. The population who is most at risk are the older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those living with a compromised immune system. Although it is likely most healthy people will recover quickly, some can develop chronic or life-threatening health issues.
Aim to keep your family safe from food-borne illnesses, by following these four simple steps:
- Clean –
Be sure to wash your hands often! Bacteria can spread through the kitchen causing it to get on surfaces such as counter-tops, utensils, and hands. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
It is best to do so at times such as before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. An easy way to remember this is by comparing keeping surfaces and hands clean to wearing a seat belt or looking both ways before crossing the street.
- Separate –
Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads from one food to another. Be sure to separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods at all times.
It is a good idea to have a specific cutting board for just raw meat, and remember to never put cooked food on a plate that previously had raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs on it.
- Cook –
When cooking, remember to use a food thermometer! Bacteria can survive on food if the food is not heated to the right temperature. A food thermometer is used to measure the inside temperature when cooking meat, poultry, and egg dishes.
Important temperatures to remember are 145°F for roasts and steaks, and 65°F for poultry and leftovers. It is important to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food, the center of the food (casseroles), and things containing ground meat should be checked in multiple places.
- Chill –
Lastly, make sure to refrigerate food promptly! Proper chilling is important in order to reduce risk of illnesses because bacteria grows fastest between 40°F and 140°F. Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables (including cooked food or cut fresh fruit) within 2 hours of being room temperature or 1 hour when it’s above 90 °F.
Also, always defrost and marinate food in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. And, your fridge should always be at 40°F or colder.
Leftover food can also harbor bacteria that have the potential to lead to food-borne illnesses. It is important to never leave leftovers out longer than 2 hours at if at room temperature, and 1 hour if it is at 90°F.
When storing leftover, be sure to divide them into shallow containers so that they can cool quicker in the refrigerator and write the date it was made on it so you can keep track of how long it has been since that date. Be sure to check the date!
A few examples are:
- Fully cooked poultry or ham slices: 3-4 days in fridge/1 to 2 months in freezer
- Gravy: 1 to 2 days in fridge/ 2 to 3 months in freezer
- Stuffing: 3 to 4 days in fridge/1 month in freezer
- Cooked casserole (i.e. lasagna): 3 to 4 days in fridge/ 2 to 3 months in freezer
When reheating leftovers, make sure to reheat to 165°F. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil, and never warm leftovers in a slow cooker.
These tips can help you protect your family from food-borne illnesses during and after the holidays!
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