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LITTLE ROCK – It’s time to eat, drink and be merry, but a foodborne illness from holiday
food could lead to misery.
“We all have different styles of prepping, cooking, transporting, serving and storing
food,” said Serena Fuller, associate professor of nutrition and food safety in family
and consumer sciences at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“It’s crucial to the health of your family and friends to make sure what you serve
them is prepared correctly, cooked to the proper temperature, and served and stored
in the correct conditions.
According to FoodSafety.gov, a website based on federal food safety information, there
are four steps to keeping food safe for consumption: clean, separate, cook and chill.
Keeping these steps in mind will help cooks and consumers stay well.
First, wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water both before and after handling
any food. Any surfaces that come in contact with food also should be washed using
hot, soapy water. This includes counters, cutting boards, plates, bowls and utensils.
“When we get busy, we may not be conscious of all the places we transfer ingredients,”
Fuller said. “If you take a few steps before you begin preparing your holiday dishes,
you can minimize any cross-contamination. For instance, you don’t have to rinse raw
meat or poultry before cooking it. This helps you avoid spreading any bacteria the
meat or poultry may have to the sink or counter, which other foods may come in contact.”
A few additional steps can be used to limit the risk of spreading bacteria even more
from meat and poultry. Keep meat, fish, poultry and raw eggs on a lower shelf and
set in rimmed dishes in the refrigerator so they won’t come in contact with any other
foods and ingredients. Use utensils and cutting boards just for raw meat, and another
set just for raw vegetables and fruits, etc., to avoid any cross-contamination.
“Keep in mind, too, not to put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an
unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood or their juices,”
Fuller said. “Use a food thermometer to make sure what you’ve cooked is at a safe
internal temperature when you serve it.”
Turkey is safe to eat when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the turkey is stuffed,
the temperature of the stuffing should be 165 degrees. Sauces, soups and gravies should
also be brought to a rolling boil when reheating, and eggs should be cooked until
the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for
raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products or
powdered egg whites.
“Although it is tempting, also don't eat uncooked cookie dough because it may contain
raw eggs,” Fuller said.
Storing food properly after it is served also is vital to avoiding foodborne illness.
All leftovers and any ready-made food such as pie should be refrigerated within two
hours after serving. Your refrigerator should be set at or below 40 degrees and the
freezer at or below zero degrees. This will inhibit any bacterial growth.
“When it comes to holiday food or any food is if it looks or smells strange, don’t
eat it,” Fuller said. “Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days after first
being served. Just remember: when in doubt, throw it out.”
For more information about holiday food safety, visit extension's Web site, www.uaex.uada.edu, or contact your county extension agent.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
By Kelli ReepFor the Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com