Safe food handling for the holidays

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, December 1, 2004

By By Carolyn Bivins Extension Agent
Chances are you will be entertaining at least once or twice during this holiday season. Now is a good time to review some food safety rules so that you will know how to keep your family and guests safe from food borne illnesses. How would you answer the following:
To see how your answers stack up, visit a new Web site called that features a quiz to assess whether you're a "food safety star" or a "kitchen calamity" when it comes to following safety guidelines. The Web site is a project of the American Meat Institute, a trade association representing America's meat and poultry industry, and is an important effort to ensure that dining is a pleasant and healthy experience for you and your family.
Turkey Trivia. For those who consider themselves the divas of kitchen cleanliness, the quiz might be a sobering exercise. For instance, although most turkeys have recommended cooking times printed on the package, cooking experts say turkeys should be prepared with a meat thermometer because even experienced cooks can be overwhelmed by the size and dimensions of handling such a large entr/e.
Your Dinner Guests. Another sure-fire step for ensuring a safe meal is to consider who will be dining. What many people fail to realize is that while the bacteria that can result from improper handling may have limited, or no effect on healthy adults, those very agents could prove dangerous, or lethal, to pregnant women, infants or those with compromised immune systems.
For these reasons, deli meats and hot dogs should always be reheated before serving to immunocompromised and pregnant people. Experts also agree that ground products like hamburgers, turkey burgers and fresh sausage should always be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is plenty of information you need to know about the most loved (or disliked!) part of nearly every meal: leftovers. According to, leftovers should be chilled immediately -- not left out to cool -- before refrigerating. They should also be stored in shallow dishes to promote rapid cooling and avoid bacterial growth. And don't forget to ensure that they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees when reheating them.
For Other Palates. Finally, for those who wish to delve into more "meatier" issues, the site devotes an entire section on commonly asked questions about the use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy, genetic modification of foods, the use of hormones in food animal nutrition and common food additives, like sodium nitrite. Have a safe and happy holiday season. For more information, visit

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