Play It (Food) Safe This New Year's

Whether it’s a New Year’s Eve party or a New Year’s Day feast, eating with friends and family can be the best part of the holiday season. But even the most festive occasion can be, well, spoiled by food that isn’t prepared or preserved in the right way.

Stop Foodborne Illness, a national nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens, wants to ensure that safe food handling becomes a normal part of everyone’s plans, both during and after the holidays. In addition to washing hands thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination, Stop Foodborne Illness offers these tips:

  • Make a plan. Consider your refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you’ll manage to keep hot foods hot (140°F or higher) and cold foods cold (40°F or lower). If you’re taking perishable food to another location, transport it in a cooler.
  • Cook food thoroughly. A food thermometer is a critical tool to ensure the feast is safe. If poultry is on the menu (including ground poultry), the thickest part must reach an internal temperature of 165°F or higher. Whole cuts of meat and seafood should have an internal temperature of 145°F. For ground meats other than poultry, a safe internal temperature is 160°F.
  • Many holiday favorites such as eggnog and some desserts contain raw (uncooked) eggs. Avoid Salmonella and other bacteria by using pasteurized eggs.
  • Don’t forget to refrigerate extra food. While it is tempting for a host to leave out food for guests who have not arrived, or just want to have seconds, perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours of serving. Be mindful of how long food has been sitting out.
  • Safely consume leftovers. Sometimes leftovers can be even better than the original meal, but any that are not consumed within 3-4 days after being placed in the refrigerator (or within 3-4 months after being placed in the freezer) must be tossed out. Tip: put the date on plastic bags or containers before freezing to ensure leftovers are enjoyed within the correct time frame. When reheating, solid leftovers should reach an internal temperature of 165° F. Leftover soups and sauces should reach a rolling boil.
  • Develop healthy habits when preparing fruits and vegetables. Before eating or preparing, rinse raw fruits and vegetables under clean running water, even fruits that require peeling or cutting – like cantaloupe and avocados.
  • Use a small vegetable brush to remove the surface dirt (and bacteria) found on the outer rind, peel, or skin. As an added precaution, avoid soaps, detergents, or bleach solutions.
  • Cut away damaged or bruised areas, as well as throwing away the outermost leaves, of a head of cabbage, lettuce, or other leafy greens.
  • Even organic and homegrown produce must be cleaned.
  • As with other prepared and refrigerated foods, avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for longer than two hours.

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