The holidays are here. Along with the holidays comes the traditional sharing of food as family and friends come together. To keep the holiday spirit, the Public Health Department offers some food safety reminders to avoid foodborne illness that could spoil your holiday. Foodborne illness can come from foods, especially meat and poultry, if they are not cooked long enough or at a high enough temperature. Foodborne illness can also come from not handling foods correctly. Not storing food at cool enough temperatures can give bacteria a chance to grow. The most common symptoms of foodborne illness are stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms often start a few days after eating food or drink that was contaminated. Most people recover in a few hours or a few days without any medical care. But foodborne illness can be more serious and even life threatening to:
Infants and young children
People with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition that weakens their immune system
Some simple steps can reduce the risk of illness from foods. The basic food safety measures are clean, separate, cook and chill foods.
Keep everything clean, wash hands often and well with soap and water. Wash surfaces where food will have contact (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) before and after each food item is prepared. Rinse fruits and vegetables with water before preparing.
Avoid having raw meat and their juices near fruits, vegetables and cooked foods.
Utensils used for uncooked foods should be washed before using on cooked foods.
Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer for meat, poultry and fish. Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turkey or other frozen meat should never be thawed at room temperature. Thaw meat in the refrigerator.
All cream, custard and meringue pies and foods with custard filling should be kept refrigerated until it is time to serve them.
Refrigerate or freeze food soon after serving. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of being cooked. It is best not to eat leftover meat refrigerated more than four days and stuffing or gravy more than two days. Leftovers that are frozen can be eaten for one to three months.