Eating and Food Safety
that time of the year and with the holidays comes festive eating.
you are shopping for all the goodies, here are some things you
will need to remember.
Food safety is important year
around, but during the holidays it becomes increasingly important.
That is mainly due to preparation of larger meals, improper
storage of foods at room temperature and overloading the refrigerators.
Follow these simple guidelines to have a happy holiday season.
Plan your meals:
Choose foods that can be served safely under planned activities.
Make sure that you have chafing dishes, warming trays or other
equipment to keep hot foods at 140°F or higher. Keep cold foods
nested in bowls of ice to maintain them at 41°F or below. If
you can't store them hot or cold, don't serve. When shopping,
keep grocery shopping on your list as the last task, so you
can take the food items straight into the refrigerator for proper
Poor sanitation in the kitchen and storage space, such as refrigerators
can cause more problems as you are preparing larger amount of
Any surface that food comes in contact with is a source of contamination.
Make sure that cooking utensils, dishes, cutting boards and
your hands are thoroughly washed between tasks. For example,
wash the cutting board, knives and your hands after slicing
the turkey but before preparing salad on the same surface. When
buying raw meat and poultry, wrap in a plastic bag so meat juices
don't drip on other foods in the shopping cart.
Store foods in the refrigerator to ensure temperature below
41°F. Keep a thermometer in sight to periodically check the
safe temperature. Do not overload the refrigerator at one time.
Stock what you need or buy fresh items as needed.
Sending gifts of food:
Send items in the mail that are safe. Some of the items that
are safe to be shipped are: jams and preserves, dried fruits,
nuts and candies, dry-cured country style hams, beef jerkey,
hard salami and other low-moisture meat products, processed
cheese products, cookies and of course everyone’s favorite –
Preparing meals for the holidays:
The best way to thaw is in the refrigerator. When thawing large
amounts, allow 24 hours per five pounds. So if you have a 25-pound
turkey, it may take five days in the refrigerator. If you are
in a hurry, thaw it in the microwave oven. Be sure to cook it
immediately if food is thawed in the microwave.
Avoiding cross-contamination, cook all your products at the
proper temperatures. The best way to check turkey temperatures
is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the
thickest part of the meat – without touching the bones. When
you reach 180°F or above, it is done. The juices will run clear,
not pink when the turkey is done. Cook other products to at
least 145°F to ensure food safety. Stuffing must be cooked to
at least 165°F.
Serving: Once cooked,
please serve meals within two hours for holiday fun. Do not
leave cooked meals at room temperatures for more than two hours.
Put all leftovers in small covered containers so they cool quickly
when placed in the refrigerator or freezer. If you store it
in the refrigerator, use it within 3 to 4 days. Freezing will
allow you more days (up to thirty days) to use the leftovers.
Stuffing and gravy will only last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Other safety tips
If you have raw eggs in the cookie dough, keep your hands out
of it. Do not let your temptation to dip into cookie dough ruin
your holidays. Raw eggs can be dangerous for the young children
Custard-type pies, including homemade pumpkin pie, need to be
refrigerated. If you run out of space in the refrigerator; rearrange
items so that the pies will fit inside the refrigerator. Pies
at room temperature can grow dangerous bacteria.
The best way to serve egg nog is to buy it in carton. The store
sold product is pasteurized and is safe. If you make your own
egg nog, use only pasteurized eggs and not raw eggs.
If you are serving meals in a buffet style, avoid adding fresh
foods to foods that have been setting out. Put foods on ice
or over a heat source to keep them out of the temperature "danger
Food and fun are packed into
holiday celebrations for many people during thanksgiving and
Christmas holidays. How many times after a gathering have you
felt a little "out-of-sorts" and blamed it on eating
too much? While overindulging can cause an upset stomach, so
can eating food that was improperly handled. Keep the fun and
cheer in your festivities by following these food-safety tips
to help prevent foodborne illness.
other food safety related information,
please contact the Houston Department of Health and Human Services,
Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713-794-9200.
the Food Safety index page
the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services