Keep Holiday Food Safe
Diseases: There are an estimated 76 million cases of diseases linked to food, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Information: Contact the Guilford County Department of Public Health at (336) 641-3292. Sandy Ellington, 641-6704.
Hot or cold, keep leftovers safe
BY DAVID NIVENS
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
GUILFORD COUNTY — The day after Thanksgiving is all about leftovers for most people, along with plans for the upcoming Christmas feast.
Sandy Ellington, community health educator with the Guilford County Department of Public Health, offers tips each year about leftovers and special holiday dishes.
Leftovers should be left at room temperature for no more than two hours, according to Ellington. Hot leftovers need to be reheated to 165 degrees before serving. Cold perishable foods that are left at room temperature for more than two hours need to be discarded. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees and the freezer at zero. Check the accuracy of the settings occasionally with a thermometer.
With hectic holiday schedules, many people are not accustomed to preparing meals for large groups.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sums up the key food safety messages this way:
• Clean: Wash your hands and any surfaces that touch food thoroughly and often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen quickly and easily, getting onto cutting boards, knives, sponges and counter tops.
• Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Avoid bacteria spread from one food product to another. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods or foods that do not require further cooking or heating.
• Cook: Prepare foods as written on the package directions. Hot foods should be reheated to 165 degrees or higher for at least 15 seconds to kill the bacteria that could cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to check temperatures often.
At Christmas, drinking traditional eggnog, eating cookie dough or eating any batters made with raw eggs may be dangerous and could contain the salmonella bacteria that can cause an intestinal infection.
A safe alternative is pasteurized egg products in baked dishes or dishes that do not require further cooking. Pasteurization kills bacteria with heat. Pasteurized eggnog beverages sold in grocery dairy cases also are a safe alternative.
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