As millions of Americans prepare to sit down with their families and give thanks this week, food experts are urging all cooks to remember to clean, separate, cook and chill foods properly to avoid foodborne illnesses this holiday season.
Dr. Mary Bielamowicz, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension nutrition specialist and licensed dietitian, says foodborne bacteria can make people sick and take the joy out of the holidays. To prevent any illnesses, she encourages all cooks to make sure kitchen items like knives, cutting boards, cookware, serving pieces, dishes and food storage containers are thoroughly cleaned before use.
It’s also important to make sure everyone helping in the kitchen washes their hands thoroughly with warm soap and water prior to handling food.
Raw meat should be separated from fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator and on the kitchen counter to prevent cross contamination.
Foods should be cooked to their proper temperature and refrigerated promptly after cooking to reduce the likelihood that bacteria will grow on the food. Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days after refrigeration.
The non-profit Partnership for Food Safety offers a Holiday Food Safety Success Kit on its website, www.HolidayFoodSafety.org.