As the holidays grow closer, we begin to prepare for all the festivities and feasts. The Lincoln County Health Department wants to remind everyone of food safety whether you are cooking or just sharing in the celebrations. “There are simple tips for safe food handling that we should be following every day, not just during the holidays. However, sometimes at large gatherings our attention is focused on friends, and family, and not as closely on safe food handling. This can be a chance for germs to be introduced that can make us sick,” said Meghan Williams, Environmental Health Specialist, Lincoln County Health Department.
Along with the holidays comes a wide variety of traditions and unique foods. It is important that those at a higher risk of food poisoning (young children, pregnant women, those that are 65 and older, and those who are ill) be extra careful of the foods they eat.
Here is what you can do to prevent foodborne illness from taking the cheer out of your holidays:
Clean: Keep Everything Clean.
- Wash hands before and after touching food.
- Wash hands and surfaces often. Germs can live in many places around your kitchen including your hands, utensils, cutting board, knives, and countertops.
Separate: Don’t cross contaminate.
- Keep foods that will not be cooked (raw fruits and vegetables) separate from raw foods that will be cooked (eggs, meat).
- Consider using one cutting board for foods that will be cooked (raw meat, poultry, seafood) and another cutting board for foods that will not be cooked (raw fruits and vegetables).
Cook: Color is not an indicator of doneness.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure that foods are cooked to the right temperature.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked foods including raw oysters, steak tartare, rare or medium hamburgers, soft-boiled eggs, egg drinks with unpasteurized eggs, and raw cookie dough.
Chill: Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful germs grow rapidly at room temperature.
- Avoid letting hot foods or cold foods sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Keep cold foods cold (410F or below) by placing in dishes or bowls of ice OR use small serving dishes and change them often.
- Keep hot foods hot (1350F or above) by using slow cookers, chafing dishes or warming trays OR use small serving dishes and change them often.