The holidays are a great time of year. Who doesn’t love a solid three months of cheer, being with friends and family, and eating tons of fantastic food? Unfortunately when many people get together to prepare and eat food there’s a higher risk for foodborne diseases. Just in time for holiday dinner preparations, here are some tips to ensure that you and your family avoid accidentally inviting pathogenic bacteria to your holiday gatherings.
Tip #1 Always handle food safely
Remember to wash your hands before preparing food. Staphylococcus aureus, better known as “staph” is a bacterium that is naturally found on human skin, noses, and throats. However, when ingested, it can cause food poisoning. By not washing your hands properly before handling food, you can contaminate if with S. aureus and other pathogenic bacteria. It is also important to wash your hands when switching from preparing one food to another in order to prevent cross-contamination.
Tip #2 Cook all meat thoroughly
Raw meat can contain Escherichia coli and other bacteria that can also cause foodborne illnesses and poses a particular risk for young children. Whether you are preparing beef, pork, lamb, turkey, ham, or chicken all meat must be cooked to a particular temperature to ensure that all bacteria have been killed. Here’s a helpful chart to consider when cooking meats:
Tip #3 Use shallow containers when storing leftovers
Storing leftovers in shallow containers ensures even and fast cooling when placed in the refrigerator or freezer. This can lessen the potential for any bacteria to grow in leftover food.
Tip #4 Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
Allowing foods to cool or warm up can increase the chances of bacterial growth especially in cold foods that are allowed to warm up. Most bacteria need warmer temperatures in order to grow, which is why cold foods and leftovers are kept cold.
Tip #5 Be mindful when using raw eggs
Whether it’s adding raw eggs to eggnog or eating unbaked cookie dough, raw eggs pose a risk for Salmonella, the most common cause of foodborne illness. Like any food, eggs must be stored and cooked properly in order to prevent the growth and prevalence of Salmonella. However, there is still hope for those who must have eggnog as part of their holiday traditional; pasteurized eggs can be purchased at most grocery stores and have been treated to destroy any bacteria in them.