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. To help keep your holiday season healthy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family from foodborne illness. If you have specific food-safety questions this holiday season, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food-safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish. 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 such as 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 that they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to make sure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time; fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F; ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160 degrees F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F.
Fool-proof tips when cooking for groups:
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 degrees F, and cold items should remain below 40 degrees F.
- Use several small plates when serving food.
- Discard perishable foods left out for two 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 degrees F, the roast is safe to eat.
- Remember that all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three-minute rest time before cutting or consuming.