FEATURE — Holiday season has arrived! As families, loved ones, friends and neighbors gather to celebrate these special events, food will likely play a major role.
There is also an increased risk of catching a foodborne illness, which could leave you feeling “Grinchy.” So whether you “feast on Who-pudding” or “rare Who-roast beast,” the following suggestions will help keep the upcoming holidays memorable for all the right reasons.
“Their mouths will hang open a moment or two…”
Many diseases can be spread through the foods we eat. Every year, it is estimated that over 37 million Americans get sick with a foodborne illness, often causing fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Keep meats and eggs separate from other food, from the shopping cart to the fridge to preparation. Wash fresh produce thoroughly before preparation. Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating and preparing food and after handling raw meat. Do not handle or prepare food if you are sick.
“He slunk to the icebox…”
Germs can reproduce rapidly when foods are left at room temperature. Food should be kept either hot (at least 140 degrees) or cold (40 degrees or below). Avoid keeping perishable food out on tables or counters for “grazing” for longer than two hours. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer at that point.
“…the last thing he took was the log for their fire!”
Generally, bacteria in food can be killed by adequate cooking. Roast, hams, steaks, chops and whole pork should be cooked to a temperature of 145 degrees. Ground meats, especially beef, should be cooked to 160 degrees. Turkey, chicken, casseroles and leftovers should be cooked to 165 degrees.
Using an accurate meat thermometer is the only way to ensure these foods have been cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature. Insert the thermometer into the center of the meat to get a reading, and clean between uses.
“…and he, HE HIMSELF, the Grinch, carved the roast beast.”
If you buy a frozen turkey for your holiday feast, remember that it will need to thaw. The safest way is in the refrigerator: 24 hours for every five pounds, up to six days before cooking, so plan ahead.
The alternative is to submerge in cold water 30 minutes for every pound, changing the water every half hour. Keep all utensils and surfaces used to prepare raw foods washed and separate from other food.
Use these tips to help keep you, your family and guests safe and healthy at your next holiday gathering. Happy feasting!
This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of HEALTH Magazine.
Copyright © Southwest Utah Public Health Foundation, all rights reserved.