FDA tips for holiday food health, safety

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The FDA has published recommendations to prevent foodborne illnesses during the holiday season.
The FDA has published recommendations to prevent foodborne illnesses during the holiday season.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has published food safety tips for a healthy holiday season.

Foodborne illnesses—typically diagnosed during the holidays—include vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed. People at the highest risk for developing foodborne illnesses include:

  • older adults
  • infants and young children
  • pregnant women
  • patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune system
  • people who take medicines that suppress the immune system; for example, some medicines for rheumatoid arthritis

Consumers play an important role in safe food-handling practices in the home. “The good news is that practicing 4 basic food safety measures can help prevent foodborne illness,” says Marjorie Davidson, a consumer educator at the FDA.

Clean

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  • Wash food-contact surfaces such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water, and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking.

Separate and prevent cross-contamination

  • Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that will not be cooked.
  • Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not (such as raw fruits and vegetables).
  • Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from kitchen utensils used for those products.
  • Do not 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.

Cook

  • To determine whether meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature, insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Meat is safest to eat at 165° F. 
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Cook eggs 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.
  • Do not eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

Chill

  • Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods, including pumpkin pie, within 2 hours.
  • FDA regulations for refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40° F and the freezer at 0° F.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave.
  • Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs 4 to 5 days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator.
  • Do not taste food that looks or smells questionable.
  • Leftovers should be used within 3 to 4 days.

Reference

Food Safety Tips for Healthy Holidays. U.S Food & Drug Administration. November 21, 2017. Accessible at: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm092815.htm

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