Healthy Habits

Food Safety Practices

Preparing holiday meal

Content Provided by the GBS Health & Wellness Team

From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD

The holiday season is in full swing and makes for the perfect occasion to enjoy tasty meals and delicious treats with friends and family. While celebrating time with loved ones, it is also important to keep up with food safety best practices to prevent putting anyone’s health at risk.

Let’s explore ways to minimize the risk of foodborne illness and cross-contamination and ensure the holiday celebration goes off without a hitch.

Wash Hands

  • Wash the entirety of your hands, wrists, and around fingernails with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparing or handling any food items and when switching from one food preparation task to another (for example, between working with raw meat to chopping up produce, or between cracking eggs to measuring flour).
  • Use warm or cold water instead of hot water, as this can cause cracks in the skin and allows germs easier access into the body. Dry thoroughly to avoid your skin drying out and cracking.
  • Touched a phone or another screen? Wash hands each time after interacting with these items to avoid the transfer of bacteria to the delicious dish you are whipping up.

Prepare in Advance to Avoid Risk

Taking raw food items to be cooked later at a holiday gathering?

  • Ensure all foods are individually wrapped or placed in sealed containers to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Keep raw meats in a cooler separate from coolers containing produce, prepared foods, and drinks.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in advance to save time.

Frustration-Free Temperature Regulation

Follow the simple rule of keeping hot items hot and cold items cold, meaning these should be packed separately from one another.

Keep it Cool

  • Pack each cooler about ¾ full with food items, while reserving the last ¼ for ice packs.
  • To ensure foods stays cold longer, chill foods for a few hours before transporting to their destination.
  • Bring a thermometer to ensure the food temperature does not rise above 40°F.

Handle the Heat

  • Pack any hot food items in an insulated container and avoid opening until it is time to serve, as this will help trap in the heat.
  • Wrap hot food items in a towel to better lock in warmth and keep foods at the right temperature until serving time.
  • Use a thermometer to ensure the food temperature has not fallen under 140°F to avoid bacteria growth.

Don’t Skimp on the Serving Utensils and Dishes

Pack extra utensils and serving platters, especially if preparing food on location to avoid cross-contamination.

Store it Away for Use Another Day

Food should not sit out within the “danger zone” between 40-140°F for more than two hours, as this encourages bacteria to multiply and can lead to foodborne illness.

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