The holiday season is upon us, bringing us closer to friends and family with special dinners and parties. As you plan and prepare meals during this festive season, the Joplin Health Department encourages you to keep these food safety tips in mind. Following these steps will keep you, your family, and friends happy and healthy.
- Wash. Always wash hands before cooking and after anything that makes your hands dirty (handling raw meats, taking out the trash, petting the dog, cleaning up the table, etc.) Do not cook for others if you are feeling sick or you could pass your illness to them.
- Plan. If your holiday meal includes a turkey or other large cut of meat, plan ahead and start thawing a few days beforehand. Thawing meat in the refrigerator is the safest way to thaw frozen foods but it takes time. Allow for 1 day (24 hours) to thaw in the refrigerator for every 4 to 5 pounds of meat.
- Store. Separate raw meats from other foods while shopping and storing in the refrigerator to avoid accidental contamination. Raw meat may contain bacteria which can drip or leak onto cooked foods. Keep raw meats underneath cooked food or food that doesn’t require cooking. Avoid the Temperature Danger Zone by keeping cold food 41°F or colder and hot food 135°F or hotter. This applies to raw and cooked meat, dairy, cooked vegetables, cooked rice or pasta, and cut tomatoes and leafy greens. Bacteria can multiply quickly on foods if they are kept at the wrong temperature for a long time.
- Cook. Cook raw meats to a safe internal temperature. Turkey, chicken or other poultry needs to reach 165°F internally for 15 seconds. Ground beef or sausage needs to reach an internal temperature of 155°F while whole beef, pork or fish must reach 145°F. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the food. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food.
- Cool. Leftovers should be cooled quickly after a meal. Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours unless they are being held at proper storage temperatures. Use shallow containers (less than two inches deep) and cut meat off the bone into smaller pieces. Leftovers should only be reheated one time, so remove the portion you’re going to eat at that time and leave the rest in the refrigerator for later. Eat leftover foods within three to four days. Freeze leftovers that will not be eaten within this time frame.
Enjoy this special time of the year with delicious food and joyous celebrations while reducing your chance of foodborne illness.