Five Food Safety Tips to Keep You Festive This Holiday

Christmas dinner.

According to the CDC, every year 1 in 6 Americans will contract a foodborne illness. More than 250 different foodborne diseases have been recorded; most are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can be foodborne. Other instances are what we call “food poisoning,” caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated the food. Each case is as unique as the cause, but nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea are common across most cases.

Last week, the first part of our series on holiday food safety examined just a few of the most common foodborne illnesses. Today, we take a moment to examine the basics of food handling. Keep your family healthy this season with these five simple tips:

Tip #1 Wash Your Hands

Norovirus, the most common of foodborne illnesses, is caused by unwashed hands. It may sound simple, but when you get busy, you may forget this simple rule. Don’t just washing after using the bathroom, but wash before you eat or handle food. When you prepare food, whether cutting the holiday roast or a setting out a cheese plate, wash for 20 seconds with soap and water.

Tip #2 Know Your Temperature

Always defrost frozen foods in the fridge. When cooking meat, poultry, and seafood, ensure the thickest part has reached a safe internal temperature. Use the following numbers as a guide or check out the chart on for more information.

poultry (including ground) 165ºF
burgers & ground meat 160°F
fish & shellfish 145ºF
whole cuts of meat (including pork) 145ºF

Tip #3: Avoid Cross-Contamination

When shopping, keep raw meat/poultry/seafood in separate plastic bags away from other foods in your cart and at checkout. If you are prepping multiple foods at one time, use one cutting board for raw meat and a separate one for other perishables. If you have to use the same knives or cutting board, clean and sanitize fully between uses. Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw items such as eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.

Tip #4: Know When to Toss It

Pathogens can begin to grow in as little as two hours with perishable food. Serve meals at the appropriate temperature, and refrigerate immediately after serving if you plan to store the leftovers. Eat any leftovers within three days of refrigerating and be sure your fridge is below 41ºF. Leftovers should be reheated to to 165ºF; sauces and gravies should be reboiled.

Tip #5: If Something Seems Funny, It Probably Is

Don’t start the new year in bed. While Aunt Betty might find puns funny, virtually no one finds it funny being sick during the holidays. If something smells or looks off, chances are it’s better to throw it away than to take chances. This goes for fresh food and holiday table scraps alike.

Remember: you have lots of tools at your disposal to keep things merry. The CDC also has a great infographic to help you maximize your safety in the kitchen. However, if someone in your home comes down with a serious and contagious illness such as C. Diff or e. coli, consider a cleanup from the biohazard specialists at Aftermath Services. We’re on call 24/7, even through the holidays, to help ensure that you and your family stay healthy this season.

Have a safe and happy holiday from your friends at Aftermath Services.