Keep food-borne illness from ruining holiday meals

Holiday celebrations often center around food…

You worry about how it tastes, but something else you should be concerned with is whether it might make you sick. Will salmonella, staph, campylobacter, E. coli, and other unwanted bacteria find their way to your dinner table this year? Here are some tips for keeping them at bay…

Better safe than sorry

  • Clean counters with paper towels or disposable cloths. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water, not water standing in the sink. Mold may indicate that the produce isn’t fresh, and cuts or bruises can allow bacteria to enter the item. Wash hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Separate raw meat from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Do this at the store, in the refrigerator, and when you cook. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood because these may harbor more hazardous microorganisms than other foods.
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer and consult a dependable chart for temperatures high enough to kill bacteria that cause food-borne illness. Do the same when reheating leftovers.
  • Follow the two-hour rule. Put leftovers away between courses to limit risk and make clean-up easier. Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly when foods sit without proper heating or cooling longer than two hours as often happens during holiday parties. Keep food below 40 degrees F. or above 140 F. Make sure you don’t end up with leftovers teeming with listeria.
  • Consume refrigerated leftovers within a few days. When in doubt, throw it out.

Cooking snafus to avoid

  • Don’t stuff the turkey. Salmonella and campylobacter in contaminated poultry account for around 70 percent of sporadic food-borne illness.
  • Don’t pour drippings from the turkey pan into your stuffing pan. Instead add a can of chicken or turkey stock which is pasteurized to eliminate risk.
  • Don’t rely on pop-up thermometers as the probe is usually too short for an accurate reading. Long meat thermometers are better. The U. S. Department of Agriculture recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for poultry.

Keep heartburn off the menu

During the holidays we consume more acidic and fatty foods, which take longer to digest. Avoid the burning sensation of heartburn by limiting carbonated beverages, citrus, and fruit juices. To limit acid production, avoid alcohol, mint products, chocolate, cranberry relish, tomato sauce, ketchup, pepper, mustard, and vinegar. Choose apple or pumpkin pie instead of high-fat pecan pie, and try not to lie down after eating or within two to three hours of bedtime.

  1. Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know
  2. For Your Holiday Buffet, Remember the Two-Hour Rule—Bacteria Certainly Will
  3. Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart
  4. Cleanliness Helps Prevent Food-Borne Illnesses
  5. 10 Safe Food Handling Rules
  6. Food Safety during the Holidays
  7. Holiday Food Safety Tips


Beverly Burmeier

By Beverly Burmeier

Beverly Burmeier is a Texas-based writer who writes on health topics for Energy Times and Costco Connection. She stays fit playing tennis and golf as often as possible.