Food Safety Tips for a Happy Holiday Season

hot cocoa and cookiesWhether you are celebrating at home or dining out, there are simple steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season.

Preparing a holiday meal at home? Prevent foodborne illness by washing hands and surfaces frequently, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and refrigerating foods promptly. If you are cooking a holiday turkey, follow these four tips to take the guesswork out of preparation:

  1. Thawing: Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (changed every 30 minutes), or in a microwave. Frozen turkeys are safe indefinitely, but thawing turkeys must defrost at a safe temperature. Turkeys left out for more than two hours at room temperature can creep into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
  1. Handling: It’s flu season! Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, using soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. This will help prevent the spread of bacteria from raw poultry, too. Don’t forget to also thoroughly wash utensils and work surfaces to protect your food and family!
  1. Stuffing: If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and possibly cause food poisoning, so use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches this temperature. For optimum safety, cook your stuffing in a casserole dish for even cooking.
  1. Cooking: Set your oven to at least 325°F, and place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a 2 to 2-1/2 inch deep roasting pan. Cooking times will vary depending on weight, so use a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint to make sure the bird has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

Dining out? Follow these four tips from CDC to prevent food poisoning:

  1. Check inspection s online for the restaurant you plan to go to. Restaurant inspection data for Virginia is available by health district here.
  2. Make sure that the restaurant is clean. If not, you may want to visit a different establishment.
  3. Check that your food is cooked thoroughly, and send back any undercooked food as it may contain harmful bacteria if not cooked adequately.
  4. Properly handle leftovers by refrigerating within 4 hours of eating. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days from purchase.

For more information, check out CDC’s blog for more Holiday Food Safety Tips and Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey.