Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Food Safety Tips for a Happy and Healthy Holiday – National Consumers League

By Courtney Brein, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

The holiday season is a time of joy best spent with family and friends. Keep those you love safe, happy, and healthy by following these simple tips:

When Cooking

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, both before and after handling food items. Take special care when handling raw meat.
  • Numerous holiday recipes, from eggnog to fruitcake, call for eggs. All eggs – even grade A, with uncracked shells – can be contaminated with Salmonella, so it is imperative to cook dishes containing eggs thoroughly. If cookie dough or cake batter contains raw eggs, resist the temptation to lick the spoon.
  • Keep raw poultry, meat, and eggs away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Clean all surfaces that come in contact with raw meat or poultry – such as cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops – with hot, soapy water or a bleach solution.

When Entertaining

  • Keep guests out of the kitchen, to prevent individuals from touching food and spreading sickness-causing bacteria, which is present on the fingertips of approximately half the population during the holiday season.
  • On the buffet table: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Serve hot foods in chafing dishes, warming trays, or crock pots, and use a food thermometer to ensure that dishes maintain an internal temperature of at least 140˚F.
  • Place trays of cold foods on ice.
  • Throw away any food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours, to better avoid foodborne illness.
  • To avoid bacteria contamination from guests’ hands, refrain from adding new food to nearly-empty serving dishes, and replace the entire dish instead.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach of children and teenagers and near the watchful eye of a responsible adult.
  • Ensure that the apple cider you serve is pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice, which is labeled as such, can cause vulnerable individuals to become extremely sick.

After the Party

  • Do not drive home if you have had too much to drink. Call a cab, or catch a ride home from a sober driver.
  • If you take leftovers with you after a holiday party, refrigerate them immediately once you arrive home
  • Leftovers stored in the fridge should be consumed within three to four days. When reheating leftovers, ensure that foods reach 165˚F throughout.