Velocity Care shares tips to safely enjoy holiday meals
As the holidays approach, we look forward to feasting with our families and spending time cooking and baking in the kitchen. Delicious meals shared with loved ones is part of what brings joy to this season, but food that is handled or prepared incorrectly can bring illness instead.
Here are five helpful tips from Velocity Care to keep you happy and healthy during the holidays.
- Keep your kitchen clean.
To keep from spreading bacteria in your kitchen, it is important to keep everything clean. Hands should be washed often with warm, soapy water, especially before preparing or serving food. Countertops, cutting boards and all utensils should be well cleaned with a mild disinfectant soap and all fruits and vegetables should be washed with clean, running water.
- Avoid cross-contamination.
Foodborne illnesses and bacteria are often spread through cross-contamination in the kitchen. By using separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, you can decrease this risk. Also, be sure that cooked meats are placed on clean plates, and not the same plate that they were on while raw.
- Ensure food is cooked properly.
All foods should be cooked thoroughly and you should use a thermometer to make certain that the proper internal temperature has been reached. Cooking food properly will ensure that all bacteria have been killed and the food is safe to eat. When a meat dish is almost finished cooking, remove it from the oven, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from any bones, and check the temperature. If it has not yet reached the minimum temperature, return it to the oven to finish cooking and check the temperature again (with a clean thermometer) in a few minutes. Remember, all hot foods should be eaten while they are still hot.
Here is an easy temperature guide to follow:
- Steak – 145°F
- Ground beef, pork or veal – 160°F
- Pork chops, ribs and roasts – 160°F
- Whole poultry – 180°F
- Ground poultry – 165°F
- Stuffing, casseroles, egg dishes and leftovers – 165°F
- Keep cold foods cold.
Foods should never be allowed to sit at room temperature. Bacteria can grow very rapidly and foods can become unsafe to eat very quickly. Keep any dishes that are meant to be served cold on ice, and if a dish has been left out for more than 2 hours, throw it out. It is also important to pack food away and either freeze or refrigerate food immediately after a meal. Remove all bones from meat before storing and divide dishes into smaller, individual portions. Label all containers with the contents and the date that they have been packaged for future reference. In general, cooked meats can be stored in the freezer for 4-6 months, casseroles can be frozen for up to 3 months and any leftovers that have been kept in the refrigerator should be used within 2 or 3 days.
- Don’t eat raw or unpasteurized foods.
Foods that have not been cooked or are unpasteurized can carry harmful bacteria or illnesses that can make you and your loved ones sick. Stay away from uncooked cookie or pastry dough and don’t lick the spoon while baking, however tempting it may be. Uncooked eggs can carry the Salmonella bacteria that can quickly lead to illness. For the same reason, stay away from homemade eggnog. Eggnog that has not been pasteurized contains raw eggs and can be unsafe to drink. It is best to stick to store-bought brands that have been properly prepared.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness that affects nearly 1 in 6 Americans every year. Most cases are a result of consuming foods that are contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. In the average person, food poisoning can cause symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. These symptoms usually only last a day or two. For certain people, like those with compromised immune systems, young children, the elderly or pregnant women, food poisoning can be a much more serious issue. It can cause severe complications requiring hospitalization and, in extreme cases, can lead to death.
By being diligent in your holiday food preparation, you can ensure that you and your loved ones stay healthy this holiday season. If you suspect that you or a family member has contracted a foodborne illness, contact a walk-in clinic such as Velocity Care. Our trained professionals can offer you advice and treatment to get you back in good health quickly. Visit www.velocitycare.com/locations to find a clinic near you.
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