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How to Prepare Holiday Meals Safely

For many families, preparing a grand meal is a tradition they look forward to during the holidays, but it’s no fun if someone gets food poisoning.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people in the United States get sick each year from eating contaminated foods.

You can avoid foodborne illness by following these tips:

1. When buying food:

  • Choose fresh items and check the expiration date for everything you buy.
  • Foods that need to be refrigerated, such as meat, eggs and milk, should be the last things you buy at the store.
  • Place meats (chicken, fish, pork and beef) in a separate bag. The liquids that spill out of these items can contaminate fruits, vegetables and other food in the refrigerator.
  • If you’ll be driving for more than an hour after you go to the supermarket, take a cooler to store the items that need refrigeration.

2. When handling food:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling any food.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with a brush to remove any dirt or soil residue.
  • Do not wash meats before cooking. This could cause bacteria to contaminate your sink and other kitchen surfaces.
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or microwave. Defrosting them at room temperature can cause bacteria to multiply.
  • Wash the knife and cutting board that were used to prepare meat before using them on other food items to avoid contamination.

3. When cooking food:

  • Cook meats after defrosting them. Don’t leave them out of the refrigerator for too long.
  • Make sure the meats are cooked well inside and out. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
  • Don’t put freshly cooked items next to raw foods.
  • When cooking meat, do so all at once. Avoid partially cooking meat and refrigerating it with the intention of completing the cooking process later.

4. When storing food:

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