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Feast on Holiday Fare Safely

Advice on how to avoid foodborne illness during the celebratory season

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Now that the holiday season is here, you'll be trying a lot of different kinds of food. Just make sure you don't gobble down a foodborne illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers some advice on food handling, preparation and safety that will help you reduce the risk of the most common forms of foodborne illness:

  • Keep it clean. Wash hands and food surfaces often. If you aren't careful, bacteria can spread through your kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges and counter tops.
  • Separate food items to prevent cross contamination. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook food to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they're heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria responsible for foodborne illness.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly to prevent bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees F and freezers at 0 degrees F.
  • Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, homemade or commercial, or batters made with raw eggs.
  • Avoid unpasteurized apple cider or juice, which may contain harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized juices are required to carry warning labels.
  • Thaw your turkey completely before you cook it. If it's not properly thawed, the outside of the bird will be cooked before the inside. That means the inside may not become hot enough to destroy bacteria. For example, a 20-lb. turkey needs two to three days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
  • Make sure your turkey is fully cooked. Insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast of the turkey but not touching bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 180 degrees F. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing temperature should be 165 degrees F.
  • Be careful with mail-order food gifts that may contain meat, poultry, fish and other perishable items such as fruit, cheese and cheesecake. If you're sending a mail-order food gift, alert the recipients so that they can be home to open it and immediately refrigerate perishable food items.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about food safety.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, November 2003
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