Food safety important to remember during holiday season

By 27 SOMDG

Throughout the holiday season, many people enjoy celebrating by entertaining friends and family, throwing parties, and preparing feasts. From the kitchen table to the office party, food becomes a focus of celebrations. Although safe food handling rules should always apply, extra precautions are necessary during the holidays to prevent food borne illness. The most common symptoms of food borne illness are stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
To make sure everyone can enjoy the holiday season, be sure to keep food safe and avoid illness by following the basic food safety steps below:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, sponges and counter tops.
• Wash your hands with hot soapy water before handling food
• Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
• Use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards. These boards should be run through the dishwasher or washed in hot soapy water after use.
• Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate
Cross-contamination is the scientific word for how bacteria can be spread from one food product to another. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Here’s how to prevent cross-contamination
• Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
• If possible, use a different cutting board for raw meat products.
• Always wash hands, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat, poultry and seafood.
• Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.

Cook: Cook to proper temperatures
Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food borne illness.
• Use a clean thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked foods, to make sure meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods are cooked all the way through.
• Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145 degrees, and turkey (unstuffed) and whole poultry should be cooked to 180 degrees.
• Cook ground beef to at least 160 degrees. If a thermometer is not available, do not eat ground beef that is still pink inside.
• Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked.
• Fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork.
• When cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots in food where bacteria can survive. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
• Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165 degrees.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly
Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying.
• Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
• Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
• Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator.
• Don’t pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to keep food safe.