Four steps to food safety for holiday meals


MANSFIELD — Richland Public Health wants everyone to remain healthy for the holidays. Foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is a common, costly — yet preventable — public health problem. Each year, about one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from foodborne diseases.

Here’s a quick reminder about the importance of food safety, especially with Holiday Meals in the coming months. The Four Steps To Food Safety can help prevent foodborne illness in the home.

1) Clean! Everything that touches food should be clean. Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces often. Harmful bacteria (germs) can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

2) Separate! Fight cross-contamination! Cross-contamination is the transfer of germs to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils and hands. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.

3) Cook! Use a food thermometer in cooking. Using a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of foods, such as meat, hamburgers, poultry, egg casseroles, and any combination dishes to ensure that a safe temperature is reached and that harmful bacteria are destroyed. For a guide to safe cooking temperatures for various foods see the chart at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html

4) Chill! Make sure the temperature in the refrigerator is 41° F or below and 0° F or below in the freezer. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. Harmful bacteria grow most rapidly in the Danger Zone — the unsafe temperatures between 42° and 134° F — so it’s important to keep food out of this temperature range. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers as soon as possible.

AN ADDITIONAL NOTE: It is important to follow healthy guidelines over the holidays, particularly when groups are gathering for meals. (1) Wash your hands frequently. (2) Cover your cough. (3) Stay at home if you are ill. The temptation to visit family for the holidays should not overcome the need to keep everyone from getting ill. Have someone bring you leftovers! (4) Get a flu shot if you haven’t already. Call 419-774-4700 to schedule a flu shot appointment at Richland Public Health’s Clinic.v

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Staff report