The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk.
While preparing seasonal foods to enjoy with family and friends, you can reduce the risk of foodborne illness with the following suggestions:
- At the grocery store, purchase cold foods like meat and poultry last. Get them home quickly and put them in the refrigerator. Freeze meats if not cooking within two days.
- Make sure to wash hands and surfaces with warm, soapy water before and after handling food or eating. Wash fresh produce thoroughly.
- To cook meat safely, use a food thermometer and follow temperature guidelines. The internal temperature of whole and ground poultry should reach 165 F; ground beef hamburgers, 160 F; and pork, beef, veal, lamb steaks and roasts, 145 F.
- Don’t leave food at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Cook immediately after thawing if using cold water or the microwave.
- Divide leftovers into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Put food directly in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Cut turkey off the bone and refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately.
- Use cooked leftovers within four days, reheating them thoroughly to 165 F or above. Reheating smaller portions of meat or poultry ensures a more uniform reheat.
These tips can help protect you and your family from foodborne illness during the holidays. For more information, call the Anne Arundel County Department of Health’s Food Protection Program at 410-222-7192 or go to “Holiday Food Safety” under In the News at www.aahealth.org.