Food safety tips for the holidays from Dare Health & Human Services

Food safety tips for the holidays from Dare Health & Human Services

November 21st, 2023

With the holidays just around the corner, the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services would like to remind residents of important food safety practices that will ensure that you and your guests fill up on delicious foods during holiday meals while avoiding foodborne illnesses. 

Whether you are planning a holiday meal for a small family gathering or a big feast for larger groups over the holidays, it is important to be mindful of basic food safety so that foodborne illnesses don’t ruin your festivities.

Consider these safety tips from the NC State Extension and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention below so that this holiday season is a safe and healthy one. 

Personal Hygiene:

  • Clean and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating and always wash hands after handling uncooked meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, flour, or eggs.
  • Wear clean clothes and aprons when cooking and serving. 
  • Cover cuts and sores with waterproof bandages. 
  • Do not prepare or handle food if you have had diarrhea or vomited in the last 48 hours. 

Cleaning and Sanitizing:

  • Clean dishes and prep equipment by washing them in a dishwasher or with hot soapy water. 
  • Thoroughly wash with hot, soapy water all surfaces that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs before moving on to the next step in food preparation. Consider using paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. 
  • To keep cutting boards clean, wash them in hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse and air or pat dry with clean paper towels. Cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes; then rinse and air or pat dry with clean paper towels.

Safe thawing practices:

  • Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing. As soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey – in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven. 
  • Frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter for more than two hours is not at a safe temperature. While the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer could be in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 F. Click here for more information on preparing your holiday turkey safely. 

Cooking food safely: 

  • Food temperatures should be checked with a calibrated digital thermometer and should be measured at the thickest spot. For safe food temperatures, click here.

Handling leftovers: 

  • Refrigerate perishable leftovers as soon as the meal is over. 
  • Throw away or compost food left at room temperature for four or more hours. 
  • Place foods in shallow containers before refrigerating for quicker cooling. 
  • Eat leftovers within seven days. 

By following these food safety guidelines, you can ensure a healthy and enjoyable holiday season for you and your loved ones. While food safety is a year-round responsibility, it becomes even more critical during the holidays when we gather to celebrate. Prioritize cleanliness, safe food handling, proper cooking and storage to protect yourself and your guests from foodborne illnesses. With these precautions in place, you can savor the holiday season while minimizing worries about food safety.

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