3 days left before Christmas – make sure that you serve safe and healthy food for your family.
Follow the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill to ensure that all foods served on your table are safe for consumption.
1. Clean: The first rule of safe food preparation in the home is to keep everything clean.
• Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. For children, this means the time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice.
• Wash food-contact surfaces (such as cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water before and after preparing each food item.
• Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
• Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops.
2. Separate: Prevent cross-contamination.
• Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked. Take this precaution while shopping in the store, when storing in the refrigerator at home, and while preparing meals.
• Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will be eaten raw (such as raw fruits and vegetables).
• Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.
3. Cook: Ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
• Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill microorganisms that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture (except for seafood).
• Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.
4. Chill: Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful microorganisms grow rapidly at room temperature.
• Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods — and any type of food that should be refrigerated — within two hours.
• Set your refrigerator at or below 4.44 ºC and the freezer at -17.78 ºC. Check the temperatures of both periodically with an appliance thermometer.
• Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
• Allot an appropriate amount of time to properly thaw food.
• Don't taste food that looks or smells questionable. A good rule to follow is, when in doubt, throw it out.
• Leftovers should be used within three to four days.
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