As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous. Follow these steps to keep your holiday season food poisoning-free.
Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:
- Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
- Buy cold foods last.
- Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.
Steps to follow during food preparation:
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
- Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 ˚F with a three minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 ˚F; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 ˚F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 ˚F; and all poultry should be cooked to 165 ˚F.
Fool proof tips when cooking for groups:
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold, using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 ˚F and cold items should remain below 40 ˚F.
- Use several small plates when serving food.
- Discard perishable foods left out for 2 hours or more.
Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:
- Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross-contamination.
- Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
- To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145 F, the roast is safe to eat.
- Remember all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three minute rest time before cutting or consuming.
Mail-Order Food Safety (USDA)
Checklists for ensuring that foods you send and receive by mail are safe.
Chart: Safe Handling of Mail-Order Foods (USDA)
Storage recommendations for mail-order meats, seafood, cheeses, fruits, and more.
Mailing and Receiving a Perishable Food Gift (FDA)
How to be sure that food arrives safely during holiday shipping.