During the holidays, our family routines change. We’re around more people, we’re shaking more hands, and cooking more food than usual.
To make sure you and your family stay healthy and enjoy your meals through the holiday season, there are a few precautions you should consider.
Wash your hands often and correctly
•Wet your hands with warm water
• Use plenty of soap, either liquid or bar is OK.
• Scrub hands vigorously for 20 seconds, ensuring you clean the tops of your hands, between the fingers, and under the nails
• Rinse your hands completely free of suds
• Dry completely with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Use the paper towel to open the restroom door if you are in public. Change out the cloth towel frequently if you are at home.
•Hand sanitizers are not a substitute for washing your hands with soap and water
What’s the big deal about handwashing at Christmas time? Here’s the big deal:
The CDC has ranked Norovirus and Salmonella as the top two identifiable pathogens causing foodborne illness. It is estimated that Norovirus is actually responsible for over half the cases for foodborne illness in the nation.
As unappealing as it sounds, Norovirus is found in feces and people contract it most often by eating contaminated food or putting a contaminated hand in their mouth. It is an accepted fact that the absolute best prevention for Norovirus is proper handwashing.
Keeping your hands clean, your food clean, and your kitchen clean go a long way toward staying healthy during the holidays.
You don’t need to be totally antiseptic, but you do need to be smart about staying clean.
Salmonella has been identified as the second most common pathogen responsible for food borne illness. Poultry and raw eggs are recognized as carriers of Salmonella bacteria. Considering the quantity of poultry and eggs that is cooked during December, here’s a refresher on the basic info you will need for keeping your kitchen clean and using a food thermometer (both are excellent ways to combat the spread of salmonella when combined with proper handwashing.)
Clean your kitchen correctly
• Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and countertops in hot soapy water after preparing foods
• Use one cutting board and knife for raw meats and a different one for fresh fruits and vegetables when preparing meals
• Sanitize surfaces that have touched raw meats. To sanitize, immerse items in a solution of 1 tablespoon liquid, unscented bleach per gallon of warm (not hot) water and leave for several minutes. Do not add detergent to this mixture.
• Sanitize a non-metal kitchen sponge by heating it while still wet in a microwave oven for one minute. Allow it to cool before touching.
• Use paper towels for wiping up meat juice. Use paper towels to dry your hands. If you use cloth kitchen towels, do not reuse them if they have touched raw meat juices. Wash cloth kitchen towels on the hottest cycle of the washing machine and dry in the dryer.
Use your food
• Heat kills bacteria. Using a food thermometer is the best way to know for sure your holiday meat has been cooked to a safe temperature.
• Poultry should be cooked to 165°F. Pork roast and Beef roast should be cooked to 145oF. These are minimum thresholds for safety. If you decide to cook your meats to a higher temperature for personal preference, no problem.
• Insert your thermometer into the thickest portion of the lean meat. Be careful to avoid the bone and the side of the pan (both register hotter than the lean meat and will provide an inaccurate reading.) Take a reading in two different locations of the meat if using an instant read thermometer.
• All thermometers are not the same. Meat thermometers are oven proof. Whereas, instant read thermometers cannot withstand oven temperatures. Make sure you understand the tool you are using before closing the oven door with the thermometer inside.
Have a safe and healthy holiday!
For even more holiday food safety information, check out the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center online at www.clemson.edu/hgic and look for Fact Sheet #3566 Food Safety Pitfalls at Thanksgiving and Beyond.
Deon S. Legette is a Food Safety/Nutrition Educator and the 4-H Kershaw County Extension Agent