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Food Safety 101: Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving and the winter holidays are a special time for families to gather around the table to give thanks and celebrate.  It’s also a time of year when inexperienced and new cooks attempt new recipes and food preparation methods. Sometimes improper handling of foods can lead to food borne illness and food poisoning.

“Food poisoning is highly preventable,” said Dr. Richard Geller, executive medical director of California Poison Control System.  “By following simple storage, handling and cooking suggestions, families can stay healthy and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the many other celebrations taking place this time of year.”

Follow Geller’s tips for a happy, safe and most importantly healthy holiday season:

Wash your hands often. It’s especially important to use warm, soapy water to clean your hands regularly when cooking or preparing food for families, especially in between handling foods that are dry and wet.

Clean your work surface. Before preparing food, carefully clean counters, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water.  Repeat cleaning in between recipes, especially if you have raw meat or leafy greens on the cutting board, both of which can carry salmonella.

Keep your turkey cold. If you purchased a turkey for your holiday dinners fresh and not frozen, refrigerate it immediately.  For a frozen turkey, allow at least 24 hours for it to thaw per five pounds of turkey.  Thaw a turkey a high walled pan placed in the refrigerator, and do not let the water touch any other food.

Be gravy-savvy. When cooking gravy, especially if your gravy includes drippings from your cooked turkey, bring gravy to a full boil before serving. It may not be in your heirloom family recipe, but it will help keep your loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season.

Use pasteurized eggs. Whenever possible, use pasteurized eggs when cooking or baking from scratch. Farm fresh eggs might sound appealing but with the recent egg recall alerts for salmonella, you can never be too careful.

Bird storage safety. After eating, take the remaining meat off the bird and store in a shallow container in the refrigerator. Don’t put an entire carcass into the refrigerator — it won’t cool down quickly enough.

November 15th, 2010

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