Don’t invite food borne illness to the holiday table

By following the guidelines of clean, separate, cook and chill, foodborne illness has less of a chance of spoiling the holidays.

The table is set. The food is cooked. The guests have arrived. Now is the time for holiday eating and buffets. Don’t let Norovirus, Salmonellosis, or Staphylococcus aureus spoil the festivities. These are three of the most common foodborne illnesses. Careful planning, preparation and serving of food at the holiday festivities will keep these unwanted visitors away.

When preparing foods, keep things clean! Wash the hands often because they are the dirtiest utensils in the kitchen. Wash hands in water that is at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Use plenty of soap and scrub the palm of the hands, in between the fingers, around the nail beds and up the wrist. Then rinse with plenty of water. The time it takes to wash the hands should be about 20 seconds or the time it takes to sing the ABC song.

Equipment, knives, cutting boards, bowls, anything used in preparing the food should be washed, rinsed, sanitized. A good rule of thumb for the strength of a sanitizer is one tablespoon to a gallon of warm water. To be accurate, chlorine sanitizing test kit can verify the strength of the sanitizing solution.

Prevent cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards and knives to prepare raw meat, poultry and fish and foods that are ready to eat or will require no further cooking. If separate cutting boards and utensils are not possible, the cutting boards and utensils need to be washed, rinsed and sanitized between the preparation of raw meats and ready to eat foods.

When cooking foods, be sure to cook the foods to minimum internal cooking temperatures. Verify that the foods are cooked by using a food thermometer.

While serving the food, remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods need to be kept at a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be done by using chafing dishes, crock pots, roasters and warming trays.

To keep cold foods cold, make sure they have been kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, prior to serving. Keeping foods cold on the buffet can be done by having dishes or trays placed on beds of ice.

Remember the two hour rule. Foods should be kept out no longer than two hours in the temperature danger zone, which is 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the party is over, chill promptly. If food has been left out in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours, it is best to throw it out. Foodborne illness should not be a gift given to guests!

Later use of leftovers requires careful reheating. Solid foods need to be reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquids need to be reheated to boiling. Use up the leftovers with three to four days.

Relax! By following these steps, the holiday buffets and dinners should be safe from those nasty foodborne illness bugs.

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