We're often called on to make and take food to a variety of events during the holidays so now is the perfect time to brush up on food safety tips to ensure that your celebrations don't go awry. The first thing to keep in mind is that some people are at greater risk of serious illness or even death from foodborne illness. Those at higher risk are infants, young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those who've had a transplant or who have HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes or kidney disease. Preparation tips to keep your feasts safe:
- Wash your hands and cooking utensils (including cutting boards) to ensure you aren't spreading bacteria around.
- Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods (cooked or raw). Use separate cutting boards or platters. Wash raw fruit and veggies before serving.
- Use a food thermometer. Cook turkey and other poultry to an internal temperature of 165 F (145 F for other roasts, steaks of chops). Take the temperature at the innermost part of the bird's thigh and wing — and the thickest part of the breast. Stuffing should also be 165 F. Boil gravies, sauces and soups.
- If serving buffet style, keep hot foods hot (140 F or warmer) by using chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Keep cold foods cold (40 F or cooler) by nesting in bowls of ice.
Safety tips if you're going to be transporting food:
- Ensure that hot foods reach a safe final cooking temperature before you transport them. Don't move partially cooked foods. Hot foods should be removed from the stove/oven just before leaving home. Transfer food to a thermal container or slow cooker, wrap in heavy towels for extra insulation and place in a thermal tote or insulated bag. Before serving, bring food up to the safe temperature (165 F). Bring gravies, soups and other hot sauces to a boil.
- Ensure that cold foods remain cold. Chill the food thoroughly. Consider using bags or blocks of ice to pack around the food and chill the thermal container you will transport it in. When you arrive serve immediately — or refrigerate until serving.
- Refrigerate all leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours of serving (1 hour if the air temperature is above 90 F).
- Properly stored leftovers can be kept for 3 to 4 days. But if in doubt, throw them out. Be sure to reheat leftovers to 165 F before serving.
- Leave the leftovers with your host. By the time you reach home, the food likely will be the in the danger zone — between 40 F and 140 F — when bacteria can quickly multiply.