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Food Safety: Tips for Handling Your Holiday Meal Preparation

The holidays are all about filling hearts—and tummies—with glee. This year, as we prepare to enjoy family feasts at home or volunteer our cooking efforts to help feed our friends and neighbors, there’s a heightened focus on food preparation safety. With cleanliness and sanitization efforts top of mind, we break down the top five safety protocols to consider when preparing holiday meals. Registered dietitian nutritionist, Katie McKee, makes the following recommendations.

Wash your hands.

Your hands can spread germs, so it’s important to make sure to wash them often when you prepare food, rubbing your hands together with soap for at least 20 seconds. Always use a clean towel to dry your hands, and use that towel to turn off the faucet. To help prevent cross-contamination, wash your hands before, during, and after preparing any food.

Rinse Your Produce.

Produce can be the culprit of foodborne illnesses and can become contaminated with bacteria during its farm to table transfer. The best way to clean produce is by rinsing it. Hold fruits and vegetables under running water and rub gently before eating, cutting, or cooking.

Sanitize Kitchen Surfaces.

Preparing food on unclean surfaces can affect your health. While cutting boards, kitchen utensils, and pots and pans should be properly washed, countertops must be sanitized, too. Don’t forget to wash your hands after cleaning these areas!

Separate Your Foods.

Raw animal foods, such as meat, poultry, and seafood, can contain harmful pathogens. When grocery shopping and preparing foods, ensure that raw foods are stored away from ready-to-eat foods. Consider placing raw foods inside plastic bags in your shopping cart to keep the juices contained and use separate cutting boards for produce and raw meats.

Check Temperatures.

Keep an eye on the temperature of hot and cold foods to confirm they’re safe to eat. Cold foods should always remain cold and hot foods should remain hot. Use a food thermometer when cooking to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry.

  • Beefsteak, pork, and lamb need to roast to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ground beef should cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Poultry needs to heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cold foods should be at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a general rule, hot foods should remain at over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods are no longer safe to eat when they have been in the danger zone: 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.