Healthy Tip – Holiday Food Safety

Did you know?

How to avoid common pitfalls that can turn Holiday Meals into a foodborne illness disaster and how to handle leftovers safely? For more details see, HGIC 3566, Food Safety Pitfalls at Thanksgiving & Beyond.

#1 Pitfall is Dirty Hands Did you know that unwashed hands cause most foodborne illnesses? Wash your hands in hot, soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Wash your hands again after touching raw meat, poultry, seafood and before handling ready-to-eat foods.

Food safety starts with clean hands.

Food safety starts with clean hands.
Donna Bowen, ©2013 Clemson Extension

#2 Pitfall is Cross-Contamination Campylobacter jejuni are bacteria common in poultry that are easily killed by heat. Most people do not undercook poultry, so the likely way that C. jejuni cause illness is when kitchen equipment is used to prepare raw poultry and then not properly washed before preparing ready-to-eat foods. Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils, and counter tops in hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, or seafood and a different cutting board for ready-to-eat foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Sanitize cutting boards and other surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Use separate cutting boards for ready to eat foods and raw meats.

Use separate cutting boards for ready to eat foods and raw meats.
Adair Hoover, ©2015 Clemson Extension

#3 Pitfall is Guessing the Turkey is Done Bacteria can survive on foods that are not cooked properly. The color of meat and poultry does not show if it is safely cooked. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods and cook all poultry to at least 165 °F.

#4 Pitfall is Mishandling Leftovers Promptly store leftovers to keep them out of temperatures where bacteria thrive. Setting the temperature of your refrigerator between 34 and 36 °F when you know you will be adding a lot of leftovers will help keep food at proper temperatures. Within 2 hours after cooking, remove the stuffing from the turkey and carve the meat off the bones. It is best to use refrigerated leftovers within 4 days. If you won’t be eating your leftovers in that time, put them in the freezer where they will keep safely.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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