Family dinners and parties where food is served are a big part of the holiday season for many of us. To keep foodborne illness from becoming an uninvited guest at your next gathering, follow these safety tips.
When purchasing food for your holiday dinner, always shop for cold and ready-to-eat foods last right before checkout. Avoid foods where the packaging has been damaged. If ordering food for delivery, make sure someone is home to receive the food and that it is delivered cold.
Frozen foods should never be thawed at room temperature. Wrapped frozen items can be safely thawed in the refrigerator or under cold water. You can also use a microwave if you plan to finish cooking the food right away. Many frozen foods can be cooked from the frozen state, although additional cooking time will be needed.
Never use the same utensils or cutting boards for both raw and ready-to-eat foods unless they are thoroughly washed with hot soapy water between each use.
The best thing we can do to not only limit cross contamination but to reduce the spread of illness is to wash our hands – frequently and often. Hands should be washed with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any raw foods.
In addition to washing utensils and other food preparation equipment between each use, counter-top surfaces and sinks need to be regularly washed and sanitized as well.
Perishable foods need to be kept out of the danger zone – between 40 F and 140 F. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving, and then placed on a bed of ice. Hot foods should be kept in the oven or on a warmer.
Never let perishable foods sit out at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature exceeds 90 F).
Large quantities of leftovers should be placed in smaller containers in the refrigerator to facilitate cooling. Leftovers can be frozen. If refrigerated, they should be consumed within 3 – 4 days or discarded.