Tis the season to eat, but beware how the food is prepared and how long it is out before you do! Yesterday FDA published a list of food safety tips. The guide, which is also available in a Spanish version, explains that "typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed".
While most food borne illnesses are not severe or serious, special at risk populations such as infants, young children and the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems are at risk for serious illness. In most cases, following a few simple steps will help prevent illness.
The guide states that the first step is to clean - everything. Make sure the food preparation area is clean, all produce is washed, and your hands are clean. Pay special attention to cleaning cutting boards before cutting the next product.
The next step, separate. Keep eggs and raw meat away from other products. Separate them in your cart in the store, in your refrigerator, and your counter top. never reuse a plate that held raw meat to hold cooked meat.
The third step is to cook properly. Never trust your eyes, but use a meat thermometer. To cook turkey, the guide explains "insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165ºF". Gravy that is reheated should be heated to boiling, and eggs should have both the whites and yolks firm set. The worst part of all for the kids - it is best to not eat raw cookie dough made with eggs, and for adults, fresh egg nog is also off limits unless both are made with pasteurized egg products.
Finally - the last step is to chill. Refrigerate foods within two hours, even your pumpkin pie. Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.
The guide has a special section to deal with stuffing. It suggests keeping the wet and dry ingredients separate until right before mixing, and to stuff the bird only 3/4 of the way through. Use a separate meat thermometer, and cook till the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees as noted above. Cook any extra stuffing in a casserole dish.
The guide contains links to other useful information, as well as a video which is embedded into this article. Be sure to come back tomorrow for Pet Food safety Tips so that all of your family members are protected and can remain healthy this season. Happy Thanksgiving!