To avoid the risk of becoming ill from contaminated food this holiday season, state health officials Wednesday encouraged Coloradans to pay special attention to the handling and preparation of foods.
Jeff Lawrence, the food safety program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division, said, “If you improperly cool foods, such as, thawing your turkey on the counter at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator. Or, if you prepare ready- to-eat foods with contaminated utensils and don’t wash your hands frequently while handling food, you increase the chance of contracting a foodborne illness.”
Lawrence said that improper cooking temperatures also may increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Emphasizing the importance of preventing foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli and salmonella, he provided some simple safety precautions to ensure holiday parties and meals will be safe and enjoyable this season.
Handling practices that are important to keeping food safe include:
Cool all leftovers to 41oF or lower within four hours after cooking is complete. Do not leave foods containing meat, milk, eggs, fish or poultry at room temperature for more than the four-hour limit. This includes pumpkin or other custard pies that are popular during the holidays.
Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water before food preparation and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, sneezing, coughing or eating, drinking or smoking.
Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, cutting boards and other utensils before and after preparing raw foods and foods that do not require further cooking. A sanitizing solution can be prepared using one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges and counter tops.
Buy a cooking thermometer and use it. Turkey and stuffing should be cooked thoroughly to 165 degrees F and ham to 155 degrees F or above before serving. Recipes requiring eggs must be cooked thoroughly to 145 degrees F or above. If egg dishes do not require cooking, such as homemade egg nog, use pasteurized egg products instead of shelled eggs.
Do not thaw foods at room temperature. Plan enough time to thaw them in the refrigerator.
Do not prepare or handle foods if you are already ill. You could spread the illness to others sharing the meal.