More than any other time of year, the holidays are rife with opportunity for consumers to indulge in a second helping – or third, if nobody’s looking – of the season’s most delectable fare.
Yet holiday sweets can turn quickly sour, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as one in six people get sick each year nationwide from foodborne illnesses. To combat this most un-jolly trend, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer offers a few rules of thumb to help consumers feel confident in cooking their seasonal favorites.
According to Tina Miller, healthy living advisor for Meijer, “many people put themselves and their guests at risk for foodborne illness during the holiday meal simply because they aren't aware of the dangers."
“We can still enjoy our family traditions of preparing and serving a big holiday meal, but with a better understanding of the risks,” Miller adds, “we can keep everyone safe from having a food hangover."
Meijer offers the following tips to keep everyone safe and sound this season:
Thaw That Turkey Properly
One of the biggest mistakes people make is letting a frozen turkey thaw at room temperature. A frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, and be sure to plan for one day of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. It's OK to thaw a frozen turkey in the sink, but only in cold water that is replaced every 30 minutes.
Don't Let Food Sit Out
Everyone loves to get seconds and thirds, but after a couple of hours at room temperature, you may have created a bacteria buffet. Don't let food sit out for more than two hours; get it into the refrigerator.
Keep Foods at Safe Temperatures
Keep perishable food in the refrigerator until ready to prepare or serve and make sure hot foods are served at safe temperatures. This means 165 degrees for both turkey and the stuffing in the bird. Mashed potatoes and other sides should be no less than 140 degrees.
Don't Keep Leftovers Around Too Long
Everyone loves to eat them, but after too long it's a bad idea. Gravy, stuffing and sides with turkey juices should be eaten or frozen within 24 hours. For other items, including sides and casseroles, 72 hours is the max.
Avoid Cross Contamination
Don't allow raw meat juices to come into contact with cooked food or other foods that are to be served raw. It's best to keep utensils separate, and always make sure everyone washes their hands.
Additional advice from Miller is available online.