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Eating Safely During The Holidays

Dec 24, 13 Eating Safely During The Holidays

The food time clock is going. Already people have been prepping, cooking, and baking for days, maybe even weeks. For the next week, people will be celebrating the holidays and eating, eating, eating. So Foodsafety.gov has provided some great advice to ensure safe holiday prepping, cooking, baking, and eating. Foodsafety.gov breaks its advice down into four categories: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Let’s take a look at what they suggest in order to keep holiday eating safe.

CLEAN

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  • Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and countertops.

Many instances of food poisoning or at least of food contamination happen because of not having clean hands, surfaces, or utensils.

SEPARATE

  • When shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or preparing meals, keep foods that won’t be cooked separate from raw eggs, meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
  • Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not (such as raw fruits and vegetables).
  • Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.

It is so easy to contaminate other foods simply by not separating foods appropriately. Making sure we separate through the entire process helps to ensure we have the safest foods during prepping, cooking, and eating.

COOK

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165°F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165°F.
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
  • Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

Perhaps the last bullet point in this list of suggestions from Foodsafety.gov is the hardest for many. I mean, who doesn’t want the beaters or to lick the bowl? I know that I have to actively move my baking bowls, beaters, whisks, and other materials to the sink right away to keep my household from a quick lick.

CHILL

  • Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated, including pie—within two hours.
  • Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature. Cook food thawed in cold water or in the microwave immediately.
  • Allow enough time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out. Leftovers should be used within three to four days, unless frozen.

Though most people probably know all of these bits of advice, it is always nice to be reminded of being safe even with food and especially during the holidays when we already are so distracted.

Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock

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About 

Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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