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Food Safety Gifts for Festive Foodies

These days, it seems everyone knows (or is) a foodie, a self-proclaimed guru of all things edible. To add to the myriad of “foodie gift guides” shopping sites have created this month, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has put together a list of inexpensive kitchen essentials, most of which are small enough to fit inside a stocking or gourmet gift basket. The best part: these gadgets ensure the giftee will return the gesture with perfectly and safely roasted (or braised, smoked, flambéed…) treats this holiday season and year-round.

Here is our “top 5” foodie gift list:

  1. Food Thermometer(s). There is a food thermometer to fit every budget, preferred cooking method, and technological aptitude, and every foodie should have at least one. A food thermometer is the only implement that can tell if food is cooked to a safe temperature to destroy illness-causing bacteria, which is a guest your holiday gathering can certainly do without. Thermometers can be purchased at the grocery, the hardware store or specialty cooking stores; this Kitchen Thermometers fact sheet can help you choose the right one.
  2. A Timer. Time and temperature are a dynamic duo when it comes to controlling bacteria for safe and successful meals. Besides letting the chef know when to check for doneness with their new food thermometer, a kitchen timer or a watch also can keep track of how long perishables have been left at room temperature. Bacteria grow fast between 40˚F and 140˚F (known as the “Danger Zone”), and perishable items should be refrigerated, reheated or thrown out within two hours of being held in this temperature range. Do you know How Temperatures Affect Food?
  3. Cutting Boards. These might not fit into a stocking unless they’re the flexible kind, but colorful cutting boards can be practical and spice up the kitchen decor. To avoid cross- contamination, we recommend using one cutting board for preparing raw meat, poultry and seafood, and a separate board for chopping salad ingredients or other ready-to-eat food. Using cutting boards in different colors can help chefs remember which board goes with each item. Read more: Cutting Boards and Food Safety.
  4. Appliance thermometers. Oven, refrigerator and freezer settings may vary, and age can take its toll on their heating and cooling components. Appliance thermometers will indicate whether the oven is heating at the proper temperature, and if the refrigerator and freezer are maintaining safe temperatures at or below 40˚F and 0˚F, respectively. This is crucial for getting the most out of holiday leftovers!
  5. Freebies! The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline and have partnered to offer a “Safe Cooking Tips for the Holidays” collection of publications that you can order online through Jan. 2, 2013. If your gift swap is too soon for the publications to arrive by mail, they’re also available as PDF’s to download and print.

The English and Spanish-speaking experts at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888- MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854) are available weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET to help with holiday food safety questions. USDA’s virtual food safety expert, Ask Karen, is available 24/ 7 at or on your smartphone. The app is also available from the iTunes and Android app stores.

Image description: If you’re planning to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal, you can order this magnet and other free publications to help keep your food and guests safe.
Order your free food safety publications now.

Image description: If you’re planning to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal, you can order this magnet and other free publications to help keep your food and guests safe.

Order your free food safety publications now.

Keep Your Food Safe This Holiday Season

While the holiday season keeps you busy, food safety at family meals or holiday parties is more important than ever. As you get ready to prepare big meals for guests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is ready to answer your questions about food safety.

According to the USDA, turkey is the food you ask about most often. Common questions about turkey are whether drugs are used in turkeys, and if the turkeys are inspected before they hit your grocery store aisle.

You can rest assured that any turkey you buy at the store has been inspected by either the USDA or your state to ensure they meet certain standards.

No matter what dishes you plan to serve at your holiday dinners or parties, it’s important to remember that any food can easily be contaminated. The USDA recommends that you follow the “two hour rule” and put away food that has been setting out for more than two hours to prevent germs from spreading.

You can also prevent the spread of food borne illnesses by washing your hands before and after preparing your food and keeping your kitchen utensils clean.

Find more food safety tips and order a free packet of publications that will help you get a great holiday meal on the table.

Recall on Imported Frescolina Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese

Package of Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese

Forever Cheese, Inc. voluntarily recalled one lot of Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese because it is contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

According to CDC reports, 14 people have been infected with listeriosis and hospitalized. Three deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least one of these deaths.

The recall affects lot number T9425 and/or production code 441202. Products were sold to supermarkets, restaurants and wholesale distributors.

Learn more about the recall and how to recognize the contaminated cheese.

Food Safety – What You Can Do

Each year, about one in six Americans gets sick from food poisoning. Although most will recover without any lasting problems, some types of food poisoning can lead to kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and even death.

When you prepare food at home, be sure to follow 4 basic steps to help prevent food poisoning: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

If you’d like to receive emails about food recalls, sign up for automated alerts.

Learn more about how to keep your food safe at