Tis the season! The holidays are a wonderful time of goodwill, giving thanks, and gathering around warm fires with loved ones. The holiday season also includes festive celebrations centered around delicious food. Holiday parties are often times of inviting friends and family members to a buffet. Since buffets involve foods being left out for long periods of time, you may find a few unwanted guests showing up to your party--bacteria! A bacterium, which is an invisible enemy that can't always be seen, tasted or smelled, can multiply rapidly in warm, moist environments, including food surfaces. When you consume a food that is out of the "time-temperature safety zone," you expose yourself to harmful bacteria that can potentially cause food-borne illnesses. But there's no need to be a Grinch--you can enjoy the festivities of the holiday season while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe with some easy food safety tips.
Use Safe Food Handling Practices
The first step in preventing food-borne illnesses is to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food. Also make sure to clean your kitchen surfaces, dishes, and utensils. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and produce.
Cook Foods to the Proper Internal Temperature
You'll need a food thermometer to ensure that your foods reach the safe minimum internal temperatures.
- All raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts should be cooked to 145° F. Allow the meat to rest for about 3 minutes before you carve and serve it. These meats can certainly be cooked to a higher internal temperature if you prefer.
- All raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 160° F.
- All poultry should be cooked to 165° F.
Hold hot foods at 140° F or warmer using chafing dishes, slow cookers, or warming trays. Hold cold foods at 40° F or colder by storing them in bowls of ice.
Use the Two-Hour Rule
Never allow foods to remain out on the buffet for longer than 2 hours. Monitor how long foods have been sitting out, and promptly refrigerate foods before they reach the two-hour mark. Discard any foods left out for 2 hours or more.
Be Egg-stra Safe around Eggs
You will eat a variety of foods during the holidays, many of which are made with eggs. Uncooked eggs can contain a dangerous bacterium called Salmonella enteritidis. You may be whipping up cookies, cakes, pies, and other tasty treats that include eggs in the recipes. The amazing aromas may entice you to lick the spoon or bowl, but avoid the temptation if the recipe contains raw eggs.
Following these simple food safety tips will ensure that you and your family remain safe during the holiday season. Bon appétit!
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.