Food Or Fire
Holiday Safety Tips
Salmonella may be tiny, but it can also be deadly.
Do you know at what temperatures bacteria can grow most rapidly on food? How about the proper way to thaw frozen foods such as a turkey? Or, how long can leftovers be left out before they become a food safety risk?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated approximately 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur in the United States annually, resulting in more than 325,000 hospitalizations and at least 5,000 deaths. While food safety is obviously an issue year round, the upcoming holiday season brings some unique concerns, especially for consumers who are planning a party or transporting food long distances. Fortunately, consumers can help make sure that foodborne illness doesn’t ruin their next holiday gathering by following a few simple tips.
•Don’t let uncooked turkey sit at room temperature. Shop for a turkey last and get it home and refrigerated promptly. Have the grocery store bag it separately and place the turkey below other food in the refrigerator.
•To avoid cross contamination. keep the turkey on a platter or in the roaster; never place it directly on the counter. Thoroughly clean and sanitize the counter once you have finished handling the turkey or any other raw foods.
•Be sure to also wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey or other foods, using plenty of warm water and soap.
An undercooked turkey is a horrible thing.
•Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness, even if the turkey has a pop-up timer. When the temperature reaches 180 degrees, the turkey should be done.
•While it is safest to prepare stuffing on the stove, those who prefer to cook stuffing inside the turkey should wait to stuff the turkey until right before putting it in the oven. Use only pre-cooked meats and vegetables in the stuffing mixture and check the stuffing with a meat thermometer to be sure it reaches 165 degrees at the center. A fully cooked turkey can still contain undercooked and potentially hazardous stuffing.
•Any leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner should be refrigerated immediately. If there are large portions of any dish leftover, separate the leftovers into smaller containers, cover loosely, and place them in the refrigerator. Separating leftover food into smaller containers helps the food to cool down more quickly. The faster food cools, the less chance of bacteria multiplying.
•And while we’ve got safety on the mind, remember some of these tips for a safer holiday season overall:
•Always turn off holiday lights when you leave the house unattended or when going to bed.
•Carefully inspect holiday light strings each year and discard any frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.
•Keep your Christmas tree watered and far away from open candles. When using an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled fire resistant.
•Don’t use open flames or candles on or near flammable materials such as wreaths, natural trees or paper decorations.
•Never connect more than one extension cord together; instead use a single cord that is long enough to reach to the outlet without stretching, but not so long that it can get easily tangled.
•When hanging outdoor lights, keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters.
•Use a certified outdoor timer to switch lights on and off. Lights should be turned on after 7 p.m. to avoid the electricity rush hour.