The holiday season is a time of celebration and sharing meals with family and friends. During holiday get-togethers, snacks and meals are frequently left out throughout the gathering. When food is sitting at room temperature for more than two hours, it becomes a source for bacteria to multiply rapidly, becoming a considerable risk for you and your guests to get sick. Common symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Following essential food safety practices can reduce the risk of unsafe food when preparing meals and homemade food gifts for this holiday season. Keep in mind; some guests might be more vulnerable to food poisoning, including older adults, pregnant women, young children, and those with weakened immune systems. Therefore, do not serve raw or undercooked eggs, raw or unpasteurized dairy products, raw fish or shellfish, raw or rare meat, and undercooked poultry to this high-risk population.
Follow these simple steps to handle food properly and reduce the risk of food poisoning:
Defrost food only in the microwave, refrigerator, or in a cool water bath (inside a leak-proof plastic bag), changing the water every 30 minutes. When defrosting in the microwave, cook the food immediately afterward.
Wash hands before, during, and after food preparation. Always wash hands when switching from one task to another, such as handling raw meat and cutting vegetables. Use soap, scrub for 20 seconds and rinse with clean running water—dry hands with a disposable paper towel.
Clean kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water to wash countertops, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles, and utensils.
Use different colored cutting boards, one dedicated for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and the other for fruits and vegetables.
Use separate utensils to cut, stir, taste, and serve food.
Use a food thermometer to determine your food’s doneness and cook it to the correct internal temperature.
Refrigerate food within two hours of serving
Joy to the Leftovers
Holiday meals often bring leftovers. All cooked proteins and vegetables and prepared salads should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving or throw them out—store leftovers in shallow containers. Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy. Slice breast meat into smaller portions to speed up cooling; legs and wings may be left whole. Use turkey, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.