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Keep Food Safety a Priority when Preparing Holiday Meals

By Renay Rouse

November 21, 2016

The one thing we don’t want to worry about as we sit down to our holiday meals is foodborne illness. Ailments like vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea can really put a damper on the holiday spirit.  

As you begin planning for holiday meals, it’s important to keep food safety a top priority, so the holidays can remain happy days.

Food safety tips for this holiday season:

Safe Thawing
Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, under cold running water and in a microwave oven.

Safe Preparation
Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces.

Safe Stuffing
For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking.  The center of the stuffing should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.  

Safe Cooking
Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F. Check the internal temperature at the center of the meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint using a food thermometer. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.  

Leftovers
Chill and refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 2 hours.

REMEMBER:

» If it’s hot, keep it hot (140° F or higher) if it’s cold, keep it cold (40° F or less)

» When in doubt … throw it out!

Additional online resources: www.foodsafety.gov/   www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/prevention.html