Food Safety advocate, Bill Marler, discusses how to spread the holiday meal love without spreading foodborne illness; food safety tips for food preparation and transport 

Not only is the holiday season the time of the cold and flu, it is also a time when another and far more deadly sickness thrives: foodborne illness. Each year, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people contract a foodborne illness, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, or Listeria. Before you prepare a feast for your next holiday potluck, it is important to learn the best ways to prevent you and your loved ones from getting sick. Food safety advocate, Bill Marler of Marler Clark, the Food Safety Law Firm, provides his best food safety tips to help prevent foodborne illness from attending your party.

“The holidays should be a worry free time with family and friends that does not include a trip to the hospital,” said Marler, “Too often have I seen people get sick from food that’s been improperly handled, stored, or prepared—something that really is completely preventable.” While the food we eat during the holidays may not always be the healthiest, we can prevent it from making anyone immediately sick by following a few simple tips:

Plan Ahead

Make a list of all foods that will need to be refrigerated or kept warm, as well as what will be transported. Make a note of how long each food item takes to cook, thaw, and prepare. Pulling out a frozen turkey the day of your party is a recipe for disaster.

Always Use a Digital Thermometer

All food that is cooked should reach the safe internal temperature of 165°F. The only proper way to measure this is by using a digital food thermometer. Also, remember that any warm foods should be kept above 140°F during serving.

Keep Foods Out of the Danger Zone

Any leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation. Do not let any food fall into the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F). If transporting food, use a cooler or insulated carrier. For best results, avoid long travel times when carrying food.

Thaw All The Way

When defrosting your turkey, or any poultry, be sure to defrost it completely. Never leave it in the car, or outside, or on the counter to thaw. The three safest places to thaw a turkey are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

  • When thawing in the refrigerator, allow one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey. Keep it in a tray to prevent any juices from dripping.
  • For cold water thawing, allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey. Make sure it is wrapped in a leak-proof plastic bag before completely submerging it in cold water. Change out the water every 30 minutes.
  • To thaw in the microwave, follow the owner’s manual instructions. Be sure to remove all wrapping and place in a microwave safe tray to catch juices.

Turkey should be cooked immediately once completely thawed.

Wash Everything…Multiple Times

The best way to prevent foodborne illness when preparing food is to wash, wash, wash. Wash your hands thoroughly, wash all fresh produce (even pre-packaged greens), and wash all utensils and surfaces. Hands, utensils, and surfaces should be washed before, during, and after each food item is prepared.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Keep all your food items (especially raw meat, poultry, and seafood) separate when purchasing, storing, preparing, and serving. Wrap all meat, poultry, and seafood in a plastic bag and keep separate from raw produce. When serving food, always use a clean plate and use separate serving spoons for each food item.  Do not wash the turkey!

Keep Guests Out

With a ton of delicious food everywhere, guests will be tempted to stick their hands in for tasting or their heads in for smelling. Try to keep your guests out of the kitchen to prevent the spread of all illnesses, including cold and flu. Provide a serving utensil for all foods, including bread, to avoid germs on hands from spreading.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne outbreaks such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria. The lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. The law firm has brought lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, Taco Bell, Peanut Corporation of America, ConAgra, Subway, Wal-Mart, and Jimmy John’s.