Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

Feasting with family and friends is part of many holiday celebrations. Follow these simple tips to help prevent food poisoning, or foodborne illness, during the holidays.

  • Cook food thoroughlyexternal icon. Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature. Roasts, chops, steaks, and fresh ham should rest for 3 minutes after you remove them from the oven or grill.
  • Keep food out of the “danger zone.”external icon Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. After food is cooked, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within 2 hours. The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at or below 40°F and the freezer at or below 0°F.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
  • Do not eat raw dough or batterexternal icon. Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter that is meant to be baked or cooked. This includes dough or batter for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants. Some companies and stores offer edible cookie dough that uses heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs. Read the label carefully to make sure the dough is meant to be eaten without baking or cooking.
  • Keep foods separatedexternal icon. Keep meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
  • Thaw your turkey safelyexternal icon. Thaw turkeyexternal icon in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • After handling pet food or pet treats or touching pets
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
    • After touching garbage
    • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
Image of table will food

Pregnant? You’re at increased risk for food poisoning, so take extra care.

Pregnancy and Food

Pregnant women are at increased risk of food poisoning, so take extra care if you’re pregnant or preparing food for someone who is.

  • Don’t drink raw or unpasteurized juice and cider.
  • Be careful with seafoodexternal icon. Do not eat smoked seafood that was sold refrigerated unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Instead, choose shelf-stable smoked seafood in pouches or cans that do not need refrigeration.
  • Take care with holiday beverages. Drinking any type of alcohol can affect your baby’s growth and development and cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Don’t drink holiday punches and eggnogs that contain alcohol. Avoid eggnog entirely unless you know it contains no alcohol and is pasteurized or made with pasteurized eggs and milk.

Close up of a pregnant woman

Pregnant women are 10 times more likely than others to get listeriosis, a rare but deadly foodborne infection caused by the bacteria Listeria. Learn how to protect yourself from this harmful germ.