Four food safety tips for holiday meals

Keep your friends and family healthy and happy with the gift of food safety.

It’s the time of year to relish the flavors of holiday meals shared with family and friends. But before you serve those festive foods to your family and friends, make sure they are safe to eat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick. Of this number 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Mishandling of food at home contributes to this number so it is important to keep this in mind as you gather your loved ones for special celebrations. Michigan State University Extension offers you the following holiday “to do” list to help keep your friends and family safe from foodborne diseases.

1. Wash hands often

Everyone loves to help with cooking during the holidays, but too many cooks in the kitchen can mean an increased risk of foodborne illnesses. Wash hands often and thoroughly in warm, soapy water before, during and after meal preparation. Make sure those helping you do too and that you dry your hands after you wash them. Bacteria love moisture so drying your hands is important.

2. Cook to proper temperatures 

Take the guesswork out of cooking your meat by using a food thermometer. A food thermometer is the only reliable way to check if cooked foods have reached the temperature required for them to be safely eaten. Thermometers also come in all shapes and sizes like digitals, instant reads, disposables, probes, pop-ups and even BBQ forks.

3. Refrigerate promptly at 40 degrees Fahrenheit 

Before you relax and savor the success of your wintertime spread, refrigerate perishable foods quickly. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of being served. Your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Joy to the leftovers 

Separate leftovers into shallow containers (two inches or less) for the refrigerator and when ready to reheat, heat the leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember it’s safe to bite when the temperature is right.

Taking a little time to add these tips to your “to do” list will truly be giving a valuable gift to your family and friends. This should be a gift that you give all year round.

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