’Tis the season to prevent foodborne illness during the holidays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

As you gather with your loved ones for the holidays, follow these tips to prevent foodborne illness during the holidays.

  • Keep foods separated — Keep meat, chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
  • Cook food thoroughly — Meat, seafood and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature. Roast, chops, streaks and fresh ham should have rest for 3 minutes after you remove them from the oven or grill.
  • Keep food out of the “danger zone” — Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour if food is exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees, such as in a hot car). Your refrigerator should be set at or below 40 degrees and the freezer at or below 0 degrees.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs — Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many festive holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, homemade desserts and dressings. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
  • Do not eat raw dough or batter — Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter that is meant to be baked or cooked. This includes dough or batter for cookies, cakes, pies, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough. Read labels carefully to make sure the dough is meant to be eaten.
  • Thaw your turkey safely — Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change water every 30 minutes), avoid thawing food on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly. Remember to wash hands to soap and water!


Kysha Rooks is EFNEP educator, and Extension program assistant for the Rowan County Extension.

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