Easy Steps to Avoid Food-Poisoning
Food is a big part of all holiday celebrations, including New Year’s Eve. Buffets and pot-lucks, overflowing with dishes containing seafood, eggs and cheese are often served, as is festive eggnog. Some of these foods carry bacteria or parasites that can cause foodborne illness (“food poisoning”). Improper food handling during such events (or in storing leftovers) often results in people getting what they commonly call “stomach flu”; which is really preventable foodborne illness
It is estimated that approximately 4,000,000 Canadians every year experience some form of food-related illness. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.
What you should do
There are four basic steps to follow to reduce the risk of foodborne illness:
Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
- Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often with warm, soapy water.
- Separate: Make sure to always separate raw foods, such as meat and eggs, from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables.
- Cook: Always cook food to the safe internal temperature. You can check this by using a digital food thermometer.
- Chill: Always refrigerate food and leftovers promptly at 4°C or below.
Remember – you cannot tell if food is contaminated with harmful bacteria by the way that it looks, smells or tastes. When in doubt, throw it out!
Food safety for some favourite holiday foods
Baked goods: Cookies and squares are a special treat, but uncooked cookie dough, batters or frosting made with raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria. Always make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly and, even though it’s tempting, never lick the spoon or eat raw cookie dough when baking with eggs.
Eggnog: Store-bought eggnog is pasteurized to destroy any dangerous bacteria. If you make eggnog at home using raw eggs, make sure to heat the egg and milk mixture to at least 71° C (160° F). Immediately after heating, refrigerate the eggnog in small, shallow containers to allow it to cool quickly. Another option to ensure you eggnog is safe is to use pasteurized egg and milk ingredients, which are available at many grocery stores.
Fruit juice and cider: If you serve punch or cider, check the product label to make sure the juice or cider has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice may contain bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella that can cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. If it has not been pasteurized, you can make it safer by boiling the product before serving.
Oysters and seafood: Some people enjoy eating raw seafood, such as oysters and sushi, during their holiday festivities. However, raw or undercooked fish and seafood may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses, so special care is needed in their preparation and handling. Keep seafood refrigerated and serve it on ice to ensure it remains cold during holiday buffets. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness and should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.
Buffets or potlucks: If you have a big crowd to feed, buffets or potlucks may be more your style. The important thing to remember is “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold”. To keep hot food hot, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots. To keep cold food cold, put serving trays on crushed ice. The ‘rule of thumb’ is not to allow food to remain at room temperature for more than two hours and don’t add more food to serving dishes already in use. Instead, use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet.
Remember to follow the “hot foods hot and cold foods cold” rule when transporting foods to and from pot-lucks and for storing leftovers.
Bon Appetit and Happy New Years!
(adapted from an article from Health Canada)