Keep Your Holiday Season Merry and Bright by Ensuring Food Safety with Every Bite!

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

From gift giving, decorating and family gatherings, the holiday season should be filled with peace, joy and happiness. Unfortunately, sickness can be an unwanted gift that you cannot return to the store and will surely put a damper on your celebrations. While taking care of others this holiday season, be sure to take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, limiting stress and staying hydrated.

Another concern deals with the food. In addition to monitoring overeating and sugar intake, we need to keep food safety in mind. One gift we should avoid giving our loved ones is food poisoning. As we plan to host holiday parties and family meals, food safety should be a top priority. Here are five important tips to remember when preparing your holiday feast:

  1. Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. Although some consumers think they are removing bacteria and making their meat or poultry safe, washing before cooking is not recommended according to the USDA. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensil and surfaces, which is commonly referred to as cross-contamination.
  2. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature. Food thermometers are the only reliable way to ensure safety and determine the desired “doneness” of meat, poultry and egg products. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Doneness,” refers to when a food is cooked to a desired state and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance and juiciness. These sensory aspects are subjective. A minimum safe internal temperature for most raw meats, including beef, pork and lamb, is 145 degrees Fahrenheit and 165 degrees for poultry.
  3. Refrigerate food within two hours and be cautious with leftovers. Remember the 2-2-4 Rule. Hot, perishable foods that sit out longer than 2 hours are considered unsafe to eat. The USDA recommends throwing away any such food, as it is in the danger zone, where bacteria can rapidly produce. 2-inches is the desired depth of storage containers, as it allows hot food to cool quickly and evenly. 4 days is the amount of time that refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat.
  4. Wash your hands frequently when handling food.
  5. In addition to food safety, be mindful of basic kitchen and fire safety practices. Use safety with knives and working around hot surfaces and watch small children carefully in the kitchen. Ensure a working smoke detector is installed in the kitchen and a fire extinguisher is in reach. The use of turkey fryers has risen in recent years, but with their popularity, so has injuries and incidents. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports there have been 168 turkey-fryer related fires, burns, explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents since 2002 resulting in nearly 672 people injured and $8 million in property damage losses.

10-1016_FoodSafety_6188For 2019, 25 years of Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® will be celebrated with more than 400 events planned in rural communities throughout North America. For more information or to locate a Safety Day near you, visit www.progresiveag.org or call us toll-free at 888-257-3529. Give the gift of safety this holiday season, by helping send another child to a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® with a modest donation of only $13. Donate by texting the word “SAFETYDAY” to 41444 or visit progressiveag.org/Donate.

Photo: Healthy lifestyles including the components of food safety are offered at many Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® like this event in Indiana. Participants learn about a variety of things like cross-contamination, proper handwashing, as well as the importance of exercise and eating a balanced diet.

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