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!