March 23, 2018

USDA Offers Tips for a Safe Holiday Season

The USDA is offering tips to help keep your holiday season safe. Whether you’re entertaining at home or carrying food to a potluck, there are rules you need to follow to make sure the food you have prepared and are serving doesn’t make someone sick. First, if you have specific concerns, call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854 or chat with a food safety speciality at

Christmas turkeyWhen shopping, make sure you keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods in the cart. Buy cold and frozen foods last so they stay cold. And always place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate bag at checkout. Go home immediately after you are finished shopping so food doesn’t get to unsafe temperatures in the trunk of your car.

Make sure you follow the rules of clean, separate, cook, and chill. Wash hands before cooking with soap and warm water, after handling raw meats and poultry, and clean surfaces after they have come into contact with these foods. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and other items to prevent cross-contamination. Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes that use raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. And always use a meat thermometer to check for the safe final temperature of foods that contain meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Cook whole cuts of pork, veal, beef, and lamb to 145°F with a three minute rest time, fish to 145°F, ground meats to 160°F, egg dishes to 160°F, and poultry to 165°F. And test those temperatures with a reliable thermometer every time.

When serving a buffet, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Use chafing dishes and crockpots to keep food hot, and ice trays or special dishes designed to keep cold to keep food below 40°F or above 140°F. Use several small plates when serving food.

Encourage your guests to wash their hands with soap and water before they eat, and especially before they serve themselves from a buffet or a family-style meal. And make sure you discard perishable foods when they have been left out for 2 hours or more. Happy holidays!

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