By: Jessica Ivy ’15, University Health Center, Nutrition Peer Educator
The holiday season is one full of family, football, and of course – food!
With so many cooks in the kitchen, it is also a season full of germs. One of the worst feelings is to be stuck in bed while your family enjoys a warm holiday meal without you.
Foodborne illnesses can usually be prevented if the right steps are taken. When you’re getting ready to cook, keep the following in mind.
Food Safety Tips
- Wash your hands often. Scrub a dub dub! Wash your hands and forearms before you begin to handle food, and wash them after working with raw meat, eggs and other potentially contaminated products.
- Don’t cross contaminate cutting boards. Make sure you use a different cutting board to chop vegetables than you use to chop meat. Bacteria can get stuck in the crevices of cutting boards and contaminate future food items.
- Keep your countertops clean. Make sure they are sanitized before placing food on them. Avoid placing purses and bags on the counter, as they carry a wide range of bacteria and other germs. Wipe down the countertops when you are done.
- Use a meat thermometer.: Ensure meat is heated all the way through to the recommended internal temperature.
- Thaw meat properly. When defrosting meat, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator (temp below 40 F). If time is tight, you can thaw it in the microwave. NEVER leave frozen meat on the counter to thaw.
- Don’t consume raw eggs. When baking cookies or other desserts, resist the urge to dip your finger in the batter. Raw eggs might contain harmful bacteria that could lead to food poisoning.
Laws of Leftovers
So what happens after the feast?
Typically, big family meals end with leftovers. Do you ever wonder how long something will last in your fridge before it goes bad? First, make sure perishable food is not left out for more than two hours before it is stored in the fridge.
Follow these guidelines for how long food can last in your fridge before tossing it.
- Cooked vegetables: 3-4 days
- Cooked pasta: 3-5 days
- Cooked rice: 1 week
- Cooked poultry: 3-4 days
- Stuffing: 1-2 days
If you’re not sure how long something has been in the fridge, abide by this easy mantra: when in doubt, throw it out!
Finally, if you have questions about food safety or any other nutrition issues, make a diet analysis appointment to meet with a knowledgeable peer educator.