Holiday Food Safety

Once again, it’s that time of the year when friends and family come together to celebrate the holiday season.  Many of us will spend hours in the kitchen in the coming weeks, preparing festive meals and treats. At this time of celebration, the last thing we want to welcome into our gatherings is a foodborne illness.  A little thought will go a long way in keeping food safe during the holidays.
Often during the holiday season we prepare food for a much larger group of people than we do on a typical day, so make sure you have enough space in the refrigerator for all food that must be kept cold before being used.  Storing food that needs to be refrigerated at room temperature is an open invitation for a foodborne illness microbe to grow, and it will have done so long before the food appears to have spoiled.
More people to feed also means bigger cuts of meat and, often, large turkeys.  If the meat comes frozen, remember that it can easily take three or four days for the meat to thaw in the refrigerator, which is the safest place to thaw food.  Cooking partially frozen meat can lead to the outer layers of the meat being overcooked, while the center stays raw or undercooked – increasing the risk of foodborne illness.  A meat thermometer that indicates when meat is thoroughly cooked is a great seasonal gift that can be used the whole year through.
Many families like to cook together during the holidays, which means more hands in the kitchen.  Keeping work surfaces, tools and hands clean is critical for food safety. Also be careful to keep raw food away from cooked items, so that there is no risk of the raw food contaminating the ready to eat food.  Keeping the refrigerator door closed as much as possible is also a good idea –repeated openings can cause the refrigerator to warm up and be well above 40ºF.  A thermometer in the refrigerator is a good idea.
With all this food about, what to do with the leftovers?  Leftovers should be placed back in the refrigerator within 2 hours in small, shallow containers to allow them to cool down rapidly.  Even when refrigerated properly, leftovers should be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days.
The Holiday Food Safety Su
ccess Kit is a ready source of useful information at this time of the year and can be found at:
Have a Happy and Food Safe Holiday season!