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Food Safety During the Holidays

The holidays are coming up, which means more recipes to dig up and a lot of food to make for family and friends. Although the holidays are a wonderful time of the year, there are some important things to keep in mind when handling food. These tips will help keep everyone safe by preventing food poisoning or foodborne illness.

  • For 20 seconds. If you can’t tell the time, try singing happy birthday twice. Be sure to wash thoroughly, such as the back of your hands, under your fingernails, and up to your forearms.
  • Before preparing food or when you change to a different type of food to work with (e.g., after preparing the turkey, wash your hands when you start preparing any vegetable dishes).
  • After touching the garbage, handling meat, playing with children and pets, or using the restroom.
  • There are three ways to thaw turkey: in the refrigerator, submerged in cold water, and using a microwave. The safest way recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is thawing it in the refrigerator.
  • To thaw it in the refrigerator, allow one day for every 4-5 pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 12 pounds, it will take 3 days to thaw. This method takes the most time, but it is also the safest method. Once it has been thawed, you can allow 1-2 days before cooking.
  • To thaw it in cold water, leave it in its original wrapping and submerge the turkey in a sink full of cold water. Thawing it in cold water will require you to change the water every 30 minutes. This method will also require you to allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound. A 12-pound turkey will take 6 hours to thaw with this method. Once it has been thawed, cook it immediately.
  • To thaw it in the microwave, please read your owner’s manual before deciding to use this method. Make sure the turkey fits in the microwave oven and to check minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Remove any original wrapping and put it in a microwave-safe dish to prevent any juices from leaking. Use the defrost function. A general rule is allowing 6 minutes per pound when using this method. Be sure to rotate and flip the turkey several times while thawing.
  • Meat, chicken, seafood, and eggs can carry bacteria that cause food poisoning.
  • Use a thermometer to make sure the food has been cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Make sure to wait for 3 minutes to cool before cutting roasts, chops, steaks, and fresh ham from the hot oven.
Food Internal Temperatures (Degrees F)
Beef, Pork, Lamb 145°F
Seafood 145°F
Ground meat 160°F
Poultry 165°F
Reheated foods 165°
  • Many holiday dishes such as eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing contain egg.
  • Always make sure to use pasteurized eggs because Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria can live on the surface of eggs or inside of them.
  • Raw dough or batter can be contaminated with Coli, or it can contain Salmonella, which cause food poisoning.
  • Coli may be found in raw flour while Salmonella may be found in raw eggs.
  • These foods include dough or batter made for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, or muffins.
  • These bacteria are killed only when they are cooked.
  • Therefore, it is important to not eat raw dough or batter. Some companies and stores offer edible cookie dough with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs. Please make sure to read labels carefully when preparing to bake.
  • Separate meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs from ready to eat foods such as salads and soup in the refrigerator.
  • To prevent juices from leaking, store meat in sealed containers. Label them to make it easier to identify the food item and which food should be stored on the bottom.
  • After cooking, hot foods should be held hot until people are ready to eat.
  • Make sure the leftovers are safe to eat for later, so put them in the refrigerator right away! Food should not be out in room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Be sure to set your refrigerator to 40°F and your freezer to 0°.


For more information, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) websites below.

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