Reduce the risk of illness this Holiday Season by Serving up Food Safety at every meal. Your Health Unit is reminding you that proper and safe food handling is even more important when people get together to celebrate the season. Food that is contaminated by viruses, parasites and bacteria can spoil the fun of holiday get-togethers and make people very sick. Each year, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimates one in eight Canadians, or four million people, will get sick from a foodborne illness often as a result of people not consistently following safe food-handling practices. Here are some guidelines to follow:
· Remember the two-hour rule when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. If in doubt, throw it out!
· Cook foods thoroughly and serve immediately. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or slow cookers that measure at least 60°C (140°F). Keep cold foods cold by resting serving dishes on crushed ice.
· When serving food, use small bowls or trays. This helps to ensure the temperature of food remains even, and also prevents food from being left out too long.
· When traveling, wrap hot food in foil, heavy towels or insulated containers to keep a 60°C (140°F) temperature. Reheat thoroughly before serving. Put cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep them at 4°C (40°F) or lower.
· If preparing a frozen turkey for the holidays, start thawing it in the fridge several days before roasting. Allow 24 hours of defrosting time for every 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of turkey. Ensure leaking juices do not contaminate other foods in the fridge. Never thaw a turkey on the kitchen counter.
· The goal of cooking a turkey is to reach high enough internal cooking temperatures (82°C/180°F) to kill bacteria. Rather than checking for the juices to run clear to let you know the turkey is done, it is better to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The best place to check the temperature is the inner thigh just above the bone. Stuffing should be cooked outside the turkey and reach a temperature of 74°C (165°F).
· Leftovers should be refrigerated promptly in shallow containers so they cool quickly. Avoid leaving turkey sitting out for snacking after a meal. Use leftover turkey and other cooked dishes within four days.
· While unpasteurized apple cider is a popular holiday beverage, it may contain E.coli. To be sure cider is safe, buy cider that is labeled pasteurized.
For more food safety tips, contact your local Health Unit office.