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Food Safety during the Holidays

clean, separate, cook, chillMany people celebrate the holidays with family, friends, and coworkers during the holidays and food is usually a significant part of those celebrations. The proper handling and preparation of food is important in preventing foodborne illnesses. Most foodborne illnesses result from food being contaminated when it is being prepared or served.

When preparing meals remember to follow these safety tips:

Clean Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops.

Separate Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.

Cook Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.

Chill Keep your refrigerator below 40°F, and refrigerate food that will spoil.

When transporting food, it is important to remember that harmful bacteria can start to grow when prepared food falls between temperatures of 40 and 140 °F (4.4 °C and 60 °C); perishable food transported without an ice or heat source won't stay safe long. It is important to properly store and refrigerate leftovers.

Keep in mind the following when storing and eating leftovers:

  • Refrigerate cooked leftovers within 2 hours and ensure the temperature in the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Leftovers should be eaten, frozen or discarded within 3 to 4 days
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Reheat cooked leftovers to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Sauces, soups and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.
  • When microwaving leftovers, make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive).

For additional food safety tips and information, visit:

Food Safety after an Emergency

During an emergency, such as a severe winter storm, if your power goes out, knowing what to do with the food in your refrigerator and freezer can help you stay healthy. The tips provided below will help minimize the potential risk of foodborne illnesses to you and your family.

During a power outage, it is important to remember these tips:

  • A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed.
  • A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full). If your freezer is not full, group packages so they form an “igloo” to protect each other. Place them to one side or on a tray so that if they begin thawing, their juices won’t get on other foods.
  • If the power is going to be out for an extended period of time, buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Below are some helpful food safety resources to keep you and your loved ones safe from foodborne illness after an emergency or power outage:

Last Updated: 11-14-2013

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