DECATUR, Ill. — An estimated 1 in 6 Americans gets at least one foodborne illness annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This Thanksgiving, avoid foodborne illness by preventing these common kitchen food safety mistakes.
The best way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness is to wash your hands frequently. A few common examples are to wash your hands before starting in the kitchen, switching between tasks and after touching a tablet or smart phone to read a recipe. Each time you do, wash with soap and water, scrubbing the hands and fingers for 20 seconds. Now that cold and flu season has started, also remember to wash your hands – and the hands of children – after blowing your nose and coughing.
Make sure to cook and reheat foods to their safe internal temperatures. A food thermometer is the best way to know what temperature your foods are, not color. Give yourself plenty of time to defrost foods slowly in the refrigerator. Check out foodsafety.gov for instructions on safely thawing and cooking a whole turkey. If you plan to serve ham, find instructions there too on reheating fully cooked hams or cooking fresh hams. If bringing foods to be reheated, such as soup or mashed potatoes, reheat them quickly, such as on a stovetop, to 165°F.
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers as soon as possible, and definitely within two hours of when cooked foods are removed from their heat source. For gatherings that leave food out on a buffet, it is important to keep track of how long food has stayed out at room temperature. This does not apply to shelf-stable foods, such as cookies.
Be food-safe when traveling with hot or cold food. Keep cold foods as cold as possible with ice or ice packs and insulated coolers. Once you arrive as your destination, put cold foods in a refrigerator. Wrap containers of hot foods in foil or clean towels and keep in insulated coolers. At your destination, move the hot food to an oven or plug in your electric equipment.
At the end of the gathering, leftovers may be shared with family and friends to take home. For short trips, 30 minutes or less, put foods into cold storage as soon as you get home. If you are travelling for longer with perishable leftovers, try to refrigerate leftovers before leaving. Then pack foods with ice or ice packs in coolers. Once at your destination, foods need to go into the refrigerator or freezer.
Follow these food safety tips for a gathering full of food, friends, family, and little risk of foodborne illness. For other questions on food safety during the holidays, visit foodsafety.gov or ask.usda.gov. Or call, Nutrition and Wellness Educator Caitlin Mellendorf at (217) 877-6042 or your local University of Illinois Extension office.
The Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness program encourages individuals, families and communities to live healthier through online and in-person skill sharing. Learn about managing diabetes and heart disease, safely preserving foods, being food-safe at home and making healthier choices when shopping, cooking and meal planning. More information about programs in DeWitt, Macon and Piatt Counties is available at go.illinois.edu/dmp or find us on Facebook or Twitter @uie_DMP.
— University of Illinois Extension, Macon County
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