Jefferson County, Colo. — The holidays are a time for family, celebrations and — of course — food. As the winter holiday season kicks off, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) wants to remind all our residents that the best food you can put on the table for your loved ones is food that is safe. By taking several important steps [external link] while preparing your holiday meals, you can reduce the risk foodborne illness and make this year’s gatherings even more delicious.
- Keep foods separated: Whether you’re at the grocery store or putting food away into the refrigerator, keep all meats and eggs separate from other items. Juices from meat, poultry and seafood can drip or leak onto other foods, but you can prevent this by storing your meat in plastic bags or containers. Keep eggs in their original carton and keep fresh fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat foods above and separate from raw meats in the refrigerator.
- Cook food thoroughly: To reduce the risk of the germs that cause food poisoning, make sure all meats are cooked to the appropriate internal temperature. Make sure you use a food thermometer! Be sure to check temperatures in the thickest part of the food or the middle of the pot. Some common internal temperatures are:
- Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb or pork (including fresh ham): 145°F (allow meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
- Fish with fins: 145°F
- Ground meats, such as beef and pork: 160°F
- All poultry, including ground poultry: 165°F
- Leftovers and casseroles, as well as microwaved food: 165°F
- Crosscheck this food safety list [external link] for other items
- Keep food out of the “danger zone”: When food is left out of the refrigerator, it can reach internal temperatures that allow for dangerous bacteria to grow. This can be avoided by remembering to keep hot food hot, and cold food cold. That means putting any perishable food into the fridge or freezer within 2 hours (1 hour if food exposed to high temperatures, like a hot car). In addition, make sure the temperature for your fridge is set at or below 40°F, and your freezer is set at or below 0°F.
- Use pasteurized eggs: Some favorite holiday dishes may contain raw eggs, like eggnog or hollandaise sauce. To reduce the risk of salmonella, use pasteurized eggs when making any foods that contain raw or undercooked eggs.
- Do not eat raw dough or batter: No matter how delicious it may be, avoid eating raw dough or batter (even if Grandma’s famous sugar cookie dough is tempting you). Dough made with raw flour or raw eggs can contain harmful bacteria which can spoil your holiday. When allowing kids to help with the baking process, do not let them play with raw dough and make sure they wash their hands before and after helping with any raw ingredients. If you MUST take a bite, use store-bought edible cookie dough, and make sure you check the label to ensure it’s safe to eat without baking.
- Thaw turkey safely: Turkey must be thawed at a safe temperature [external link] to prevent harmful bacteria from quickly growing and spreading. You can thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (with frequent water changes every 30 minutes) or in the microwave. Do not thaw any foods on the counter.
- Wash your hands frequently: As is important with any and all food preparation, wash your hands frequently. Some key times to remember to wash your hands are:
- Before, during and after food prep – especially after handling raw foods
- Before eating
- After handling pets or pet food/treats
- After using the restroom or changing diapers
- After touching any trash
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick, or treating a wound
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
To learn more about food safety efforts at JCPH, please visit our website. In addition, Jeffco community members can access education and resources around food safety at:
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.