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How to Beat the Holiday Blues

Holiday Meals - Hold the Bacteria

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The holidays are upon us and family and friends will gather round the table for good food and memories – but hopefully not a food-borne illness.  Food safety during the holidays is critical because large amounts of food are often prepared and served.

The County Department of Environmental Health suggests cooks follow these safety tips to keep those microscopic guests from joining the party.

  • PLAN: Plan ahead. Decide how much food can be safely served, taking into account the cooking and refrigerator space. Thinking of defrosting a frozen turkey? It’s best to slowly thaw in the refrigerator. A large turkey requires at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight. Get your meat thermometer ready for a busy day.

  • CLEAN: Wash your hands before and after handling food. Thoroughly rinse whole raw produce prior to use. Wash and sanitize the counters, cutting boards and equipment before and after preparing your holiday feast.

  • SEPARATE: Keep produce separated from raw meat products. Place turkey on a plate or in a pan at the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods while defrosting in the refrigerator. Defrosted, the turkey can be refrigerated for one to two days before cooking. Try using separate cutting boards for meat and fruits or vegetables.

  • COOK: Cook turkey and stuffing to165°F. Use a meat thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperatures are reached. The temperature of a whole turkey must reach 165ºF in the innermost part of the thigh. The safest way to cook stuffing is separate from the bird.  Germs can thrive in the stuffing ingredients if it is improperly cooked in the turkey. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F before eating. Gravy should be reheated to a boil and leftovers, if heated, should be thoroughly reheated to 165° F.

  • CHILL: Keep cold foods at 41°F or colder. Check the temperature inside your refrigerator.  If preparing foods ahead of time, refrigerate to minimize bacterial growth. Cut leftover turkey into small pieces, or slice. Within two hours of cooking, refrigerate all leftovers separately in shallow containers.

For additional information visit the USDA Web site, or call its Meat and Poultry Hotline, (888) 674-6854.

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