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Christian Health: Share the gift of food safety

Share the gift of food safety this Christmas season. Practicing food safety throughout the holidays and year round can prevent foodborne illness, also called food poisoning.

A wonderful part of Christmas celebrations is enjoying time with family and friends. Traditional favorite foods are often a part of celebrations.

We pray to God and thank Him for our food and ask Him to bless it. We want to be sure that we take precautions to properly prepare and serve food He provides, so it is safe and healthy for all who partake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans, approximately 48 million people become ill, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illness every year. The holiday season is vulnerable for foodborne illness.

There are many festivities including serving food and many opportunities for food to be at room temperature too long to safely eat. Think of the parties where guests bring or the host serves food that is at room temperature the entire evening.

Harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly after two hours. This puts guests at risk for food poisoning. Some tips for safe handling and serving food this Christmas season include:

• Always wash hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation. This can eliminate many cases of food poisoning.

• Keep kitchen countertops, utensils and cutting boards clean throughout preparation. Use two cutting boards, preferably different colors or styles—one for raw poultry, fish and meat and the other for ready-to-eat foods like raw fruits, vegetables and salads.

• Plan ahead to safely thaw the turkey in a container in the refrigerator or in a leak proof plastic bag placed in a sink of cold water that is changed every half hour. It must be thawed at a safe temperature. Never leave the turkey on the counter at room temperature to thaw. Follow the microwave manufacturer’s instructions if thawing in a microwave. Raw turkey and the juices can contaminate anything it comes in contact with and spread harmful bacteria. Cook the turkey thoroughly. The only reliable way to ensure the turkey is cooked to the proper temperature is to use a cooking thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, thigh and wing joint. It should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If it has not reached this temperature, continue cooking. Wash the thermometer with soap and hot water before reinserting.

• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Slow cookers or chafing dishes can be used on a buffet to keep foods hot. Cold foods should be held at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. They can be kept cold by attractively placing serving dishes in a bowl of ice. Track the time perishable food was set out. Never leave at room temperature more than two hours. Discard perishable food that has been at room temperature two hours or more. For longer gatherings, keep fresh food in the refrigerator to replace the food after two hours.

• Refrigerate leftovers at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning. Reheat leftover turkey and gravy to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

• Safety guidelines also apply to holiday treats taken to offices, parties or given as a gift. Great options to consider if heating or refrigerating is a concern are dried fruits, nuts or a basket of washed apples, oranges, pears and bananas.

Author: Becky Varner

View more articles by Becky Varner.

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