Ready For That Traditional Holiday Meal?
Food is as much a part of holiday gatherings as football, candles and carols. This holiday season, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods encourage Americans to enjoy healthy holiday meals while keeping food safety in mind every step of the way with tips from the Home Food Safety program's HomeFoodSafety.org.
"Preparing a buffet of food can be overwhelming, so proper preparation and additional attention to food safety is key to keeping your friends and family safe from food poisoning," said registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Joan Salge Blake. "Some of your guests may be at a higher risk for developing serious illness from food poisoning, including young children, pregnant women and older adults."
Don't let food poisoning spoil the party. Follow these simple steps for planning, shopping, cooking and wrapping up the party:
Proper planning. Make sure your kitchen is equipped with what you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for storage, paper towels and soap. Store foods in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below or in the freezer at 0 degrees F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.
Safe shopping. It's important to keep food safety in mind as you shop, according to Salge Blake. Whether in the shopping cart, reusable grocery tote or the car trunk, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don't purchase bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the grocery store. Remember to always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours.
Working in the kitchen "In a holiday kitchen filled with family and friends, all hands may be on deck, but are those hands clean?" Salge Blake asked. "Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food."
When baking delicious holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Have children take the Cookie Rookie Pledge before they assist in the kitchen.
Wrapping up leftovers "As you eat and visit with family and friends, keep in mind how long the food on the buffet table has been sitting out unrefrigerated," Salge Blake said. "Remember that you can't tell if a food is unsafe by taste, smell or appearance alone."
Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with an expiration date. Check our Keep It Cool: Food Storage Chart or Is My Food Safe? app to determine how long to keep leftovers. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F, and do not eat expired foods as this could lead to food poisoning.
Learn more about food safety during the holidays and all year round with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' redesigned HomeFoodSafety.org or download the free Is My Food Safe? app for Apple and Android devices.