Tips to keep holiday food safe to eat
Dec. 2, 2017 at 5:48 p.m.
Updated Dec. 3, 2017 at 1 a.m.
With the holidays right around the corner, you may now be planning what to cook, buy or transport for holiday meals and parties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1 in 6 people get sick each year from contaminated food, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually, so follow these steps to keep your holidays healthy and safe:
During holiday grocery shopping:
• Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood in the lowest part of your cart, away from other foods in your grocery cart.
• Buy cold foods last and get them home and back into the fridge or freezer as quickly as possible.
• Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.
During food preparation:
• Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they do not become contaminated after preparation.
• Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees; fish should be cooked to 145 degrees; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 degrees; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees; and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.
When cooking for groups:
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 degrees, and cold items should remain below 40 degrees.
• Use several small plates when serving food.
• Discard perishable foods left out for two hours or more.
When sending a perishable food gift:
• Make sure the food is frozen solid or refrigerator-cold.
• Use an insulated cooler or a heavy corrugated box packed with a frozen gel pack or purchase dry ice for keeping food cold.
Alert the recipient ahead of time and set a mutually agreeable delivery date.
• Properly label the package "Perishable - Keep Refrigerated" on the outside and provide a complete mailing address and phone number to ensure proper delivery.
• Ship your package by overnight delivery.
When receiving a perishable food gift:
• Open the package upon arrival.
• Make sure the food is still refrigerator-cold.
• Immediately refrigerate or freeze the food.
• If perishable food does not arrive cold, do not eat it. Notify the shipper immediately. It is their responsibility to deliver perishable foods on time.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!
Source: Winter holiday food safety articles at foodsafety.gov/keep/events/Winter%20Holidays/index.html;cdc.gov/foodnet
Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.