Holiday Food Safety Tips For This Year’s Feast, from Steritech

The holiday season is primetime for gathering together around a warm seasonal meal. If not careful, recreating a nostalgic family favorite or preparing multiple dishes for a large gathering can increase the risks of spreading a food borne illness, warn the food safety experts at Steritech.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that one in six Americans, nearly 48 million people, contracts a foodborne illness every year.

To keep food safety the centerpiece of this year’s holiday feast, Chris Boyles, Vice President of Food Safety at Seritech, shared essential tips to ensure safe and healthy food preparation.

Be Prepared to Prepare:

Holiday meals are typically much larger than everyday meals. When preparing multiple dishes at once it can quickly become overwhelming, and there is greater risk for cross-contamination. Before cooking, use these strategies to ensure safe preparation:

Schedule enough time for prep-work. Keep ready-to-eat foods separate from raw proteins with a separate set of cutting boards and utensils to prevent cross-contamination. Choose color-coded cutting boards and utensils to make it easy.

Storage space in refrigerators and coolers may be limited. Plan ahead by mapping out rack space to separate ready-to-eat foods, raw animal proteins as well as any foods with potential allergens. Always keep raw proteins below the other foods.

New seasonal items may have unexpected allergens. The nine most common food allergens are: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, sesame, peanuts, and tree nuts. Review all ingredients and inquire with guests about any potential allergens before the cooking begins.

When reviewing ingredients for allergens, also become familiar with potential recalls. Food recalls and foodborne illness can strike at any time. Pay attention to news reports and government agency updates about recalls and outbreaks and remove any high-risk foods.

Don’t Skimp on Cooking Time:

It is important to get it right when cooking larger portions and items, like turkeys, to ensure the food is fully cooked to safe temperatures. Monitor cooking temperatures with these tips:

Cooking partially frozen turkeys or other animal proteins like roasts will take longer, so proper thawing is important. A general rule is to allow for 24 hours of thaw time per five pounds of meat.

Preparing larger portions and quantities of food in ovens may require that cook times are adjusted for the loads. Use a calibrated meat thermometer to check final internal cook temperatures rather than a preset timer.

Continue to monitor final cook temperatures to ensure animal proteins are cooked properly. Insert a meat thermometer at the densest part of foods and check for these USDA-recommended internal temperatures.

Turkey/Poultry – 165°F

Beef Roasts – 145°F

Pork Roasts – 145°F

Cook-before-eating Ham – 145°F

Fully-cooked Ham – 140°F

Ensure Safe Leftovers:

Food safety doesn’t stop once the food is fully cooked. Improper cooling of foods can also cause foodborne illness. To avoid sending guests home with unsafe foods, follow these guidelines for proper cooling:

Cool cooked foods from 135°F to 70°F in two hours. Within six hours total, cool from 135°F to 41°F.

Divide large and thick foods into smaller portions.

Use shallow containers for quicker cooling.

Don’t tightly cover containers until food is fully cooled.

Freeze leftovers that won’t be eaten within three to four days.

Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F.

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