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Safety Tips for Cooks Preparing the Holiday Table

The '2-hour rule' tops simple list of ways to prevent food-borne illnesses

TUESDAY, Dec. 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- When you're entertaining guests this holiday season, remember the two-hour rule to help prevent food-borne illnesses.

"Two hours is really about as long as any kind of food needs to be setting out. After that, it should be refrigerated," Laura Palmer, a registered dietitian and cooperative extension service specialist in food and nutrition at Purdue University, said in a prepared statement.

"I think people make the food and then get so involved with their families that they forget to clean up and put things away," she said.

Palmer offered the following holiday food safety tips:

  • Be careful at buffets. Certain foods, such as deli meats, seafood, and cheeses and dips made with dairy products, need to be chilled. If you believe a food item isn't being served or stored properly, don't eat it.
  • When preparing food, avoid cross contamination. Wipe down countertops and other surfaces with hot water and detergent or bleach after preparing any type of raw meat. Don't chop no-cook items, such as raw vegetables or cheeses, near preparation areas for meats.
  • Be aware that many cutting boards have porous surfaces that can harbor germs.
  • Use food thermometers to cook food to proper internal temperature.
  • When reheating leftovers, be sure food is heated to 165 degrees F.
  • Wash your hands often during food preparation and when eating. Something as seemingly harmless as answering the phone can spread germs that can make people ill.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more holiday food safety tips.

SOURCE: Purdue University, news release, Dec. 5, 2006
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