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Kane County Health Department: Holiday Food Safety Tips

Take care to enjoy holiday feasts, follow a few simple food safety tips

A key recipe for holiday cheer

is the taste of great food toward the end of the year.

But as you prepare to meet, greet and eat,

use these food safety steps for your holiday fete.

OK, a poet I’m not, but the holiday season is upon us, and already there have been tips on safe shopping to protect against thieves, advice on smart shopping to guard against spending too much, suggestions on sights to see and where to shop.

But the holidays also are synonymous with food, so today, the Kane County Health Department offers some safety tips to ward off food-borne illness:

Plan your holiday meals days in advance: This is especially important if you must thaw large quantities of frozen food. 

Thaw safely: The safest way to thaw frozen food is in a refrigerator at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

  • Completely thawing something large like a 20-pound turkey takes time — allow about 24 hours for each five pounds of frozen food to thaw in a refrigerator (three to four days for a 20-pound turkey).
  • Never thaw your food at room temperature. The outside of the food will be warm while the inside is still frozen, allowing potentially disease-causing bacteria to grow. After thawing, the turkey may be cleaned and trimmed, and the stuffing may be prepared.

Proper cooking temperatures: A very important and inexpensive piece of equipment that every kitchen should have is a, which is available at any grocery store. Don’t guess — use a thermometer to ensure the food has reached the proper internal temperature.

  • Poultry and stuffed foods — Internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Meat and fish — At least 145 degrees.
  • Cook pork, ground meats and ground fish — At least 155 degrees.
  • If you are cooking a beef roast and like it rare, it should be cooked to at least 130 degrees for 121 minutes.
  • Cook stuffing separately from the turkey. Stuffing placed inside a turkey during cooking may not reach the required 165 degrees and could cause an illness.

Wash frequently during food preparation: That includes the utensils you are using. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, when switching from working with raw food (such as poultry) and working with ready-to-eat food (such as vegetables or cooked foods), after touching parts of your body, after handling soiled equipment or utensils, and after coughing, sneezing, eating, drinking or smoking. Wash hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds while rubbing your hands together vigorously. Twenty seconds is about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Avoid cross-contamination: Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful germs from one food to another. Contaminated hands, utensils or equipment can transfer microorganisms. Examples:

  • Handling raw poultry or meats, and then handling some other food with juice from the meat or poultry still on your hands;
  • Cutting raw poultry with a knife, then using that knife to cut vegetables without first washing the knife.

After the feast: Once the meal is over, cool down leftovers to 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower within six hours. The best way to do this is to place the leftover food in shallow pans (no thicker than three inches) before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer.

  • Slice large cuts of meat and de-bone poultry before cooling or freezing.
  • Avoid leaving leftovers out at room temperature once the meal is over.

Food-borne illnesses can be serious enough to require hospitalization and may even be fatal, the Kane County Health Department states in its release. Apply safe food-handling principles and practices to every meal you prepare to help avoid illnesses during this holiday season and throughout the year.

More information about food safety can be found by visiting the Kane County Health Department website at kanehealth.com/food_safety.htm, by liking the Kane County Health Department  on facebook.com/kanehealth and by following the department on Twitter @KaneCoHealth.

 

SOURCE: Kane County Health Department

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