'Tis the season for holiday gatherings, but sometimes with those festivities can come bouts of food poisoning.
DuPage County Health Department officials said improper storing, cooking, and serving of ham, beef, lamb or turkey can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria like salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness.
Stay healthy this season by making sure foods are prepared safely.
“The two things that we try to stress the most—and it may sound almost too simple—is that you want to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot,” said David W. Hass, communications manager for the DuPage County Health Department. “Bacteria can grow if food is not kept at the proper temperature.”
Officials recommend using a meat thermometer to ensure the proper internal temperature has been reached.
Make sure to allow one day’s thawing time for each five pounds of turkey, officials said. A 20-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw.
Officials recommend removing the neck and giblets from inside the bird as soon as possible for faster thawing.
Keep the bird off the kitchen counter. If there is no room to thaw it in the refrigerator, put it in in the kitchen sink and refill the sink with cold water every half-hour.
Cook fresh turkeys within two days, thawed turkey within four days, officials said, and read and follow the cooking directions on the label. The turkey is done when it reaches 165°F.
Ham It Up
Officials said fully cooked, ready-to-eat ham must be kept refrigerated. If heated for a meal, heat to internal temperature of 140°F. After the meal, cut the ham into thin slices and refrigerate promptly. Slices will keep up to four days in the refrigerator.
Host a Roast
Raw lamb or beef should be used within three to five days of purchase, according to DuPage County Health Department officials. Lamb and beef roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F to be medium rare and 170°F for well done. Cut into thin slices and refrigerate promptly after the meal.
Other holiday food safety tips include keeping the kitchen clean and washing hands often during food preparation and while serving.
While the Internet makes finding cooking tips such as those above easy these days, Hass said the health department’s role is helping to keep people safe.
“These are just some commonsense things people can do at the holidays when they’re cooking,” he said.
For more information, visit the DuPage County Health Department website.