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Serving salmonella, staph, camphylobacter, listeria, E. coli and shigella this holiday season?

Health and wellness tips from Indiana University

Holiday Food

Holiday traditions often involve meals and buffets.

Alyce Fly, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Indiana University Bloomington, said banishing unwanted bacteria from the dinner table is not so difficult if the four techniques below are followed. A food thermometer, she said, can be an important ally.

"Most people don't realize how valuable they are," Fly said. "You really can't tell how well meat is cooked by the color. You need a food thermometer."

To learn more about these techniques and food borne illnesses visit http://www.fightbac.org/content/view/14/21/.

  • Wash, wash and wash. Wash hands and surfaces often with soap and water, 20 seconds for hands. Clean counters with paper towels or cloth towels that are washed regularly. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed under running water -- don't use water that is standing in the sink.
  • Keep raw meat to itself. Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eat foods. Do this at the store, in the refrigerator and when you cook. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood because these foods harbor many more hazardous microorganisms than other foods. Don't put cooked foods or ready-to-eat foods on a plate that has previously held these raw foods.
  • Kill the bacteria with heat. Cook meat, poultry and seafood to a temperature that will kill food borne pathogens. Use a food thermometer and consult the chart at http://www.fightbac.org/content/view/93/2/ for safe temperatures for different foods. This same practice applies to leftovers which should be reheated to safe temperatures.
  • Refrigeration. Pitch foods that have been sitting out for more than two hours -- or one hour when the temperature exceeds 90 F -- if they require refrigeration. Refrigerate perishable groceries as soon as possible. Frozen foods must be kept at a safe temperatures while thawing. Food can be defrosted safety in three ways: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately. Never thaw food by letting it sit on the counter. Marinating foods should be stored in the refrigerator. Leftovers go down hill quickly. Follow this link, http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/4185.html, for a guide to when raw food and leftovers should be pitched.

A food thermometer is your friend -- and other tips: Hot foods on buffet tables should be kept at 140 F or warmer and cold foods should be kept at 40 F or below. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep foods hot; cold foods can be held at safe temperatures by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. This USDA Web site offers tips on cooking turkey at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Countdown_to_the_Holiday/index.asp. This Fight Bac! Web site offers a safe egg nog recipe, http://www.fightbac.org/content/view/94/. Fight Bac! is provided by The Partnership for Food Safety Education, a not-for-profit organization that includes industry associations, professional societies in food science, nutrition and health, consumer groups and the U.S. government.