Five holiday food tips to keep your food safe

The holidays can present a special challenge for keeping food safe. As we begin to make plans for the holiday meal and make that list of holiday foods, remember to keep food safety in mind.

The holidays can present a special challenge for keeping food safe. As we begin to make plans for the holiday meal and make that list of holiday foods, remember to keep food safety in mind. Making the food and event memorable will impress your guests, so keep food borne illness in check, and follow these guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 76 million people get sick from food-borne illness every year. The CDC estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service recommends using this guide to help you keep food safety as part of the holiday meals.

  • Have a plan. Remember to consider refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you’ll manage to keep hot foods at 135 degrees or higher and cold foods at 41 degrees or lower. If you need to use coolers, make sure you have plenty of clean ice and check it frequently to be sure the ice hasn’t melted. It is not recommended that you depend on the natural outdoor temperature to keep foods at proper temperatures.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often—before, during, and after food preparation. Washing hands is one of the easiest ways to minimize bacterial contamination and keep your food safe. Wash with hot water and soap, up to your wrists and between your fingers, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cook to proper temperature and use a thermometer. To determine that food has been cooked to kill bacteria you must use a food thermometer. Turkeys, stuffing, side dishes, and all leftovers should be cooked to at least 165 degrees and kept above 135 degrees during serving to be sure that any potential bacteria is destroyed. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
  • Properly defrost your turkey, or buy a fresh one. If you choose a frozen turkey, plan for 24 hours per five pounds to defrost in the refrigerator, and whatever you do, don’t defrost the bird on the kitchen counter. You may defrost the bird using frequently changed cold water. It is safe as long as you change the cold water bath every 30 minutes.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees. Filling a plate of food and putting it into the microwave for a few minutes may seem safe enough. However, you need to use a thermometer to make sure all the food is reheated enough to kill bacteria. Microwaves heat in an uneven manner, so let the covered food sit for a minute or two to let the heat destroy any bugs, then check the temperature in at least two places.

Following these five tips for will assist you as you prepare for the special holiday meals that will be food safe for your family and guests. To contact an expert in your area, visit the expert webpage, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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