Food Safety and Holiday Preparation

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Holiday meals are one of the most anticipated meals for millions of Americans, but there is a safety side which must be followed during the preparation stage and storage phase so the memories will continue to be fond ones throughout the year. (Steve Johnson, Creative Commons)
Holiday meals are one of the most anticipated meals for millions of Americans, but there is a safety side which must be followed during the preparation stage and storage phase so the memories will continue to be fond ones throughout the year. (Steve Johnson, Creative Commons)

This is the time of year we dust off “mamma’s and grand mamma’s” famous family recipes because food during the holidays becomes more than nourishment for the body, but nourishment for the soul also! It is an expression of love and tradition; which makes one eagerly await that festive holiday meal…. tasting every morsel before you even take the first bite.

Yes, holiday meals are one of the best most anticipated meals for millions of Americans, but there is a safety side which must be followed during the preparation stage and storage phase so the memories will continue to be fond ones throughout the year. It is important to protect your family and friends from food-borne illnesses.

The CDC states that food safety can be a special challenge during the holidays. Not only is it cold and flu season, but the menu may include more dishes than there is room for in the refrigerator and oven. It’s a special skill set to prepare a delicious holiday meal and make sure everything is kept at the proper temperature so bacteria doesn’t grow.

Let’s begin with phase one – holiday grocery shopping. Typically, families expand annually because of weddings, births, engagements and new friends often enter the picture between holiday gatherings. Therefore, it is important you are aware of any food allergies of your family or guests so you can shop and prepare accordingly.

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds (sing two rounds of happy birthday to yourself) before and after handling any food. Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove all surface dirt. Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and countertops.

When shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or preparing meals, keep food that won’t be cooked separate from raw eggs, meat, poultry or seafood…and from kitchen utensils used for those food products. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (i.e. raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not, such as raw fruits and vegetables. Do not eat uncooked cookie dough or cake batter which may contain raw eggs.

Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods and any type of food that should be refrigerated, including pie – within two hours. Set your refrigerator at or below 40F and the freezer at 0F. Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Never thaw food at room temperature. Allow enough time to properly thaw your ham or turkey. For example, a 20 pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely in the refrigerator. Leftovers should be kept within three to four days maximum, unless frozen. After this time period throw the leftovers away.

Remember to always Keep an Eye on Safety during the holidays as you prepare and store your foods. Happy Holidays!!