The holiday season is a time of goodwill and giving thanks. It is also a time of joyful celebration with family and friends involving food, and thus, we must remember to keep food safety in mind to prevent foodborne illness from ruining the festivities.
The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) of the Department of Public Health and Social Services would like the public to follow these four basic steps of food safety:
(1) CLEAN: The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean.
• Remember to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food and before going on to the next item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
(2) SEPARATE: Don’t give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another (cross-contamination).
• Try to use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and a separate one for fresh produce. Keep seafood, roasts, hams, and other meats and their juices separate from other side dishes when preparing meals.
(3) COOK: Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
• Cook meat, fish, and poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature:
o 165°F: Poultry, ground meat, and left-overs
o 145°F: Fresh beef, veal, pork, lamb, and fin fish
• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating. Egg products can be substituted in recipes typically made with raw eggs, such as eggnog, custard, or key lime pie. Be sure that eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked when serving those at higher risk for foodborne illness, such as children and the elderlies.
(4) CHILL: Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature.
• Refrigerate leftovers and take out foods and any type of food that should be refrigerated within two hours. Keep the refrigerator at 41°F or below and the freezer at 0°F to prevent bacteria from growing. Remember to never defrost at room temperature. Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave.
For more information on holiday food safety, visit the U.S. FDA website at http://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/buystoreservesafefood/ucm188807.htm