For some people, chitterlings are a reminder of home, family, culture, and holidays -- and either you really love them or you don’t. Chitterlings are the small intestines of a hog and are especially popular in the southern United States.
If you’ve never eaten chitterlings (more commonly called “chitlins”), they have a texture similar to calimari (squid) and a pungent odor while being boiled. After lengthy boiling, chitterlings sometimes are battered and fried and commonly are served with cider vinegar and hot sauce as condiments.
Care must be taken when preparing chitterlings because they can be contaminated with the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica and other foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Yersinia is a bacterium found in intestine of the pigs and that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. Infections caused by these bacteria are called yersiniosis.
When raw pig intestines are cleaned and cooked in household kitchens, it creates a messy environment in which cross contamination with Yersinia can occur. This harmful bacteria can be spread to kitchen counters, tables, utensils, and even baby bottles and pacifiers. After chitterlings are thoroughly boiled and carefully prepared, the final product is not likely to be a risk for foodborne illness. The risk comes from the preparation process.
Follow these steps to reduce the risk of food illnesses from chitterlings:
- Thaw chitterlings in the refrigerator. Wrap the container of raw chitterlings in plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator or set it on a plate or tray.
- You can buy precooked chitterlings, but if you prefer using raw chitterlings, preboil them for 5 minutes before cleaning and cooking. This will kill any harmful bacteria without changing the flavor.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water for a full 20 seconds before and after the preparation of chitterlings.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
- Sanitize countertops, equipment, utensils, and cutting boards with a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Keep children out of the kitchen when chitterlings are being prepared.
- Boil and simmer chitterlings until are well cooked and tender.
Symptoms from yersiniosis can include watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, fever, and vomiting. Call your doctor if you think you have a foodborne illness.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Fact sheet: Yersiniosis and Chitterlings: Tips to Protect You and Those You Care For From Foodborne Illness
- Podcast: Chitterlings and Yersiniosis
If you have questions about preparing chitterlings or any other holiday food, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.
Homemade eggnog is a tradition in many families during the holiday season. But each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Usually raw or undercooked eggs.
Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. To prevent this ingredient from causing harmful infections, just follow these guidelines for safe handling.
Cooking the Egg Base
At the FDA, we advise consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.)
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 °F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon (but please don’t lick the spoon if the custard is not fully cooked!).
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
Don't Count on Alcohol to Kill Bacteria
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey, or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, if contaminated unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can't count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria – that’s not likely to happen
Other Options for Safe Eggnog
You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, or you can find a recipe without eggs.
- With the egg substitute products, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
- Pasteurized eggs can also be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. These are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost per dozen. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.
So, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline talked to about 350 people on Thanksgiving Day about thawing, preparing and storing turkey. Most people were right on track and just needed some reassuring about handling the big bird. Some people, however, called about situations that could be disastrous – or even deadly.
Even though these problems involved turkey, the same food safety principles apply if you’re cooking ham, duck, goose or any another holiday meat.
Don’t Leave the Turkey Out for More Than Two Hours!
One concerned caller put a turkey into the oven at 5:00 p.m. and didn’t turn the oven on until 2:00 a.m. Some asked about thawing a frozen turkey on the counter for several hours. Others wondered about leaving cooked turkey on the buffet all day long.
Unfortunately, we had to tell the concerned caller that she should throw the turkey away. That’s because it spent more than two hours in The Danger Zone (temperature range of 40 to 140 ° F). And we told other callers to never thaw a turkey on the counter or leave cooked turkey out for more than two hours.
The bottom line: It’s not safe to leave raw or cooked turkey (or any perishable food) at room temperature for more than two hours. Otherwise, you’re creating the perfect conditions for dangerous bacteria to multiply rapidly.
Don’t Roast the Turkey Overnight!
This year, a number of callers asked about roasting a turkey overnight at 200 to 250° F. We explained that this cooking method is just not safe. USDA does not recommend cooking meat and poultry at oven temperatures lower than 325 °F. Anything below that runs the risk of leaving turkey in The Danger Zone for too long.
Don’t Buy Your Fresh Turkey Too Early!
Many callers made the mistake of buying their fresh holiday turkeys too early. USDA recommends buying a fresh turkey no more than two days before you plan to cook it. Also, be sure to plan ahead when thawing a frozen turkey so it is not thawed too far in advance.
Don’t Forget the Food Thermometer!
We talked with many cooks who said they used visual clues (such as color) to determine whether the turkey was done. The problem is that you can’t tell by looking!
A whole turkey is cooked safely when it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. To check the turkey, insert the food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
For more information on cooking turkey or other holiday meats, check out these resources:
- Fact sheets
If you have any holiday food safety questions, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.