The holidays are here, and they’re filled with family, friends and food. It’s a time when wonderful memories are created, but one memory you don’t want to associate with the holidays this year is food illness or food poisoning.
Whether you’re preparing your favorite dish for the office potluck or the big family holiday meal, you need to think about food safety steps, just like you take the time to find the best ingredients.
“Improper food handling can result in foodborne illness, which occurs from eating contaminated food,” said Isabel Jacobs, a clinical dietitian at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix.
In our conversation with Jacobs, she noted that infants, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at greater risk for foodborne illness.
Important Food Safety Tips
When it comes to food safety, it’s not just how you prepare the food; you also need to consider safe storage and transport of your dishes as well. Follow these tips to keep food safe for your holiday meals:
- Always wash your hands before handling food, especially raw food, and do it thoroughly using soap and warm water.
- Store and prepare raw foods, such as meat and poultry, away from ready to eat foods or fresh produce.
- Clean any utensils or surfaces that may have come in contact with raw meat before using them with ready to eat food or fresh produce.
- Know the correct temperatures for cooking meat and poultry and follow them.
- If possible, use separate cutting boards for raw food items and fresh produce.
- Always serve food on clean plates.
- Keep prepared food on warmers after cooking to ensure they remain at a safe temperature. Perishable or cooked foods kept at room temperature beyond two hours should be thrown out.
- When storing hot leftovers, place food in shallow containers to cool quickly before refrigerating.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of being left out at room temperature.
- Make sure your refrigerator is at the proper temperature – 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less – to ensure safe storage.
- Only store leftovers for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and 3-4 months if frozen.
“It’s not just improper food preparation and cooking that can be dangerous – improper food storage can lead to foodborne illness too,” said Jacobs.
When it comes to foodborne illness, symptoms to watch out for include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever, and it’s important to know that symptoms can come on within just a few minutes of eating to as long as weeks after.
Get more information on how to prep, cook and store food safely this holiday season.