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Keep Holiday Meals Festive and Safe

Experts offer advice on how to properly cook and serve fare

THURSDAY, Dec. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Holiday parties and home-cooked meals offer plenty of opportunities for germs to find their way into food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service offers advice about keeping food safe.

At the store:

  • To prevent cross-contamination, separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in the grocery cart. Ask for these foods to be placed in separate bags at the checkout counter.
  • Buy cold foods at the end of your shopping trip so they won't get too hot on the way home.

While preparing food:

  • Use separate cutting boards to cut raw meat and to cut vegetables, bread and other ready-to-eat items.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, prepare uncooked recipes before cooking raw meat. Once these food items are prepared, separate them from meat dishes.
  • Use a meat thermometer -- not just an oven thermometer -- to make sure dishes are property cooked to the appropriate internal temperature.
  • Cook fresh beef, pork, veal and lamb to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Other appropriate temperatures are 145 F for fish, 160 F for egg dishes, ground beef, veal and lamb, and 165 F for poultry.

When cooking for groups:

  • Use chafing dishes and slow cookers to keep hot food hot (above 140 F) and use ice trays to keep cold food cold (below 40 F).
  • Put perishable food in the trash after two hours.

While cooking a roast:

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for roast to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Sanitize items that have touched raw meat, like cutting boards, by washing them with warm soap and water, or placing them in the dishwasher.
  • Make sure the roast has reached 145 F by using a meat thermometer. Let all cuts of beef -- plus pork, veal and lamb -- rest for three minutes before cutting or eating.

More information

For more details about food safety, try the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, press release, Dec. 10, 2014
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