It's the season for shopping and celebrating with loved ones. It's a time of year where people step out of their usual routine in the kitchen to prepare a big feast. But don't let a holiday meal spoil your night!
"Well no one wants to get sick during the holiday. You want to be spending time with your family enjoying it," says Diane Bridgewater, a food safety expert with the University of Alabama.
She says people could fall ill if hosts improperly handle food.
"Vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach," added Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has some important advice so that special holiday meals don't spoil the occasion. Before hitting the kitchen, people should have a basic understanding of what can make food dangerous. While cooking, the biggest problem is usually cross contamination. This is how germs that make people sick can spread. One example of this is if a turkey is thawed out inside of the kitchen sink.
"And then you put lettuce or something like that that you're just washing. If the pathogens are in the sink then they're getting on to foods that are not going to be cooked, like lettuce, vegetables, you might have fruit. That sort of thing," Bridgewater said.
To avoid this, sanitize every surface that touches raw food.
Another important rule of thumb is any easy one: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This will slow food from growing harmful germs.
And when the time comes to serve food, four is the magic number.
"Four hours is probably the maximum amount of time we want to leave food out," Bridgewater said.
After gobbling down a holiday meal, it's time to handle the leftovers.
"The sooner you put things away the safer it will be down the road. Even if it's putting big bowls in the refrigerator, it would still be better than leaving it out in the counter," Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater recommends eating leftovers within seven days, assuming you keep it inside the fridge.
For more resources on food safety, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/.
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