Food Safety During The Holidays

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD

Program Coordinator,

Operation Backpack and Cooking Matters

Tis the season! The holidays are a wonderful time of goodwill, giving thanks and gathering around a warm fire with loved ones. The holiday season also includes festive celebrations centered around delicious food. Oftentimes holiday parties are a time of inviting friends and family members to a buffet. Since buffets involve foods being left out for long periods of time, you may find an unwanted guest showing up to your party—bacteria! A bacterium, which is an invisible enemy that can’t always be seen, tasted or smelled, can be found on food and can multiply rapidly in warm, moist environments. When you consume a food that is out of the “time-temperature safety zone,” you expose yourself to harmful bacteria that can potentially cause food-borne illnesses. But there’s no need to be a Grinch—you can enjoy the festivities of the holiday season while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe with some easy food safety tips.

Use Safe Food Handling Practices

The first step in preventing food-borne illnesses is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after handling food. Also make sure to clean your kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and produce.

 Cook Foods to the Proper Internal Temperature

You’ll need a food thermometer to ensure that your foods reach the safe minimum internal temperatures.

All raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to 145°F. Allow the meat to rest for about three minutes before you carve and serve it. These meats can certainly be cooked to a higher internal temperature if you prefer.

• All raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 160°F.

• All poultry should be cooked to 165°F.

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

• Hold hot foods at 140°F or warmer using chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Hold cold foods at 40° F or colder by storing them in bowls of ice.

Use the Two-Hour Rule

Never allow foods to remain out on the buffet for longer than two hours. Monitor how long foods have been sitting out and promptly refrigerate foods before they reach the two-hour mark. Discard any foods left out for two hours or more.

Be Egg-stra Safe around Eggs

You will eat a variety of foods during the holidays, many of which are made with eggs. Uncooked eggs can contain a dangerous bacterium called Salmonella enteritidis. You may be whipping up cookies, cakes, pies and other tasty treats that include eggs in the recipes. The amazing aromas may entice you to lick the spoon or bowl, but avoid the temptation if the recipe contains raw eggs.

Following these simple food safety tips will ensure that you and your family remain safe during the holiday season. Bon appétit!

Kari Hartel, RD, LD, is the Program Coordinator, Operation Backpack and Cooking Matters at Operation Food Search. For more information please call 314.726.5355 ext. 25.  Or email kari.hartel@OperationFoodSearch.org.