December 18, 1997
REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY DURING THE HOLIDAYS
SPRINGFIELD, IL When friends and family sit down to enjoy that special holiday feast, be sure they do not end up with food poisoning.
"Food poisoning is an increasingly common problem," says Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director. "By following certain simple procedures, however, individuals can reduce their chances of becoming ill."
During the holidays or anytime, people should refrain from eating certain foods. Such foods as raw oysters, raw egg drinks, mousse or bread pudding unless made with pasteurized eggs or an egg substitute; soft-boiled eggs; steak tartare; and rare or medium hamburger can harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning. It is particularly important that young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who are ill or whose immune systems are compromised not eat raw or undercooked animal products or raw oysters unless they first consult their physicians.
Be sure to follow three very important rules: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Keep everything in the kitchen clean. And be sure to wash your hands frequently.
Cooking food to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (F) kills most bacteria that cause food poisoning. Keep cooked foods that are not served immediately at a holding temperature between 140 degrees F and 165 degrees F. Do not leave food unrefrigerated longer than two hours or the chances of bacterial growth increase.
Keep bacteria from getting into food through careless handling by following these simple steps:
Hands should always be washed thoroughly with warm water and soap before handling food.
Towels and wash cloths should be kept clean since bacteria can linger in those used repeatedly between launderings.
Counter tops and utensils should be washed with hot, soapy water between each step in food preparation. Bacteria from raw meat and poultry can get into other foods if both touch the same surfaces. Also, be cautious not to use wooden utensils or cutting boards for raw meat and poultry. These surfaces are not smooth and can harbor bacteria in the ridges. (Any time you use wooden utensils and cutting boards, they should be scrubbed thoroughly with soapy water and rinsed well before and after each use. Do not use them at all if the utensil or board is scored or cut.) Cleaning sponges are another place where bacteria can multiply.
Because many warm-blooded animals, turkeys and other poultry often harbor salmonella organisms, proper thawing and cooking are important to avoid foodborne illness. These tips are useful:
Cook meat and poultry to the temperature indicated in the following chart to make sure it is cooked thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer, inserting the tip into the thickest part of the meat and avoiding fat or bone. For poultry, insert the tip into the thick part of the thigh next to the body.
Partial cooking should be avoided because it allows bacteria to grow. Cook meat and poultry completely without interrupting the cooking process.
Frozen meat or poultry* should be cooked one and a half times the period required to prepare thawed food. For example, if 60 minutes is required to cook a dish, allow 90 minutes if the dish is frozen. (*Turkey is an exception. It should always be completely thawed before cooking.)
Do not cool leftovers on the kitchen counter. Divide them into smaller portions so they will cool more quickly and put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Cover leftovers to reheat. This helps maintain moisture and ensures that meat is heated all the way through.
Special thawing and cooking guidelines apply to turkeys.
Start early and thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in a place where the air temperature is no higher than 40 degrees. A 20-pound turkey takes about three days to thaw completely.
To be sure the turkey is thawed completely, check to see that no ice appears in the inner cavity and the meat is soft. Be cautious: If the inner cavity is still frozen or even partially frozen when the turkey is put in the oven, the outside of the bird will finish cooking before the inside and the inside temperature will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria.
If stuffing is mixed the day before the holiday meal, pre-mix only the dry ingredients. Mixing moist ingredients ahead of time offers the opportunity for bacteria to grow. It is safer to cook stuffing separately. However, if you do stuff the bird, do so just before cooking it. Stuff it loosely so the stuffing cooks thoroughly.
Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the thigh, breast or stuffing. Temperatures should register 180 degrees F for a whole turkey, 165 degrees F for the stuffing and 170 degrees F to 175 degrees F for boneless turkey roasts.
After the meal, immediately refrigerate leftovers such as meat, dressing, gravy or soups in small shallow containers. Letting these foods sit several hours at room temperature allows time for the growth of disease-bearing bacteria. Refrigerate cold stuffing and other items separately from the bird.
It is important to serve leftovers either very cold (directly from the refrigerator) or very hot (reheated to 165 degrees F).
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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