Food is an important part of the holiday season, but holiday meals can take a turn for the worse if food safety isn’t on your menu. That’s because you might get a foodborne disease, which is sometimes called foodborne illness or food poisoning.
To help keep you and your loved ones healthy during the holidays and throughout the year, follow the four basic steps of food safety—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
- Foodborne disease is common, costly, and preventable.
- Germs that make you sick can survive on your hands, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, such as cutting boards and countertops.
- Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods if not kept separate.
- Bacteria that cause foodborne disease can multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F.
- People can spread germs to food and others, especially if they do not wash their hands thoroughly or if they prepare food while sick.
Many people think they can tell when food is “done” simply by checking its color and texture, but there's no way to be sure it's safe without following a few important but simple steps. Use a food thermometer. During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot. After meals are over, refrigerate leftover food within 2 hours. Check the safe minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods at https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.
CDC provides the vital link between illness in people and the food safety systems of government (federal and state) agencies, food producers, and food retailers.
If you drink eggnog over the holidays, be sure it has been pasteurized to kill germs that are be found in raw milk or raw eggs and cause severe illness. If you make homemade eggnog, prepare it with eggs and milk that have been pasteurized.
Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave oven. For optimal safety, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. If you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Use a food thermometer to be sure that the turkey, and center of the stuffing, reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
Bake or cook dough and batter before eating. Raw dough and batter are never safe to eat, even if they don’t contain raw eggs. Just tasting a small amount can make you sick with germs such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water. Washing your hands the right way can stop the spread of illness-causing bacteria.
Wash surfaces and utensils after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the kitchen.
Did you know that—even if you plan to peel fruits and veggies—it's important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside as you cut or peel them?
Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce and for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Placing ready-to-eat food on a surface that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs can spread bacteria and make you sick.
Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery and in the fridge. Bacteria can spread inside your fridge if the juices of raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs drip onto ready-to-eat foods.
Cooked food is safe only after it's been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Color and texture alone won't tell you whether your food is done. Instead, use a food thermometer to be sure. Check the safe minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods at https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.
Keep food hot after cooking (at 140°F or above). The possibility of bacterial growth actually increases as food cools after cooking because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. But you can keep your food above the safe temperature of 140°F by using a heat source like a chafing dish, warming tray, or slow cooker.
Follow recommended cooking and standing times from package directions or labels. When reheating, use a food thermometer to make sure food reaches 165°F to make sure harmful bacteria have been killed in your foods.
Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours. Cold temperatures slow the growth of illness-causing bacteria. So it's important to chill food promptly and properly.
Many people are surprised at this tip. But since bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature, you should avoid thawing foods on the counter. Thaw your food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
You can't tell just by looking or smelling whether harmful bacteria has started growing in your leftovers or refrigerated foods. Be sure you throw food out before harmful bacteria grow by checking our Safe Storage Times chart at http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html.
- Follow the four basic steps of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
- Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
- Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods at the grocery store, in your refrigerator, and when preparing food.
- You can’t tell if food is “done” simply by looking at its color and texture. Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours, or 1 hour if the food is exposed to temperatures of 90°F or warmer.
- The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at 40°F or below and the freezer at 0°F or below.
- If possible, don’t prepare food for other people if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting.
- Be especially careful when preparing food for people who are more likely to get seriously ill from food poisoning—adults 65 years and older; children younger than 5 years; people with weakened immunity, such as those with HIV or receiving chemotherapy; and pregnant women.