Staying healthy during the holidays

FONDA — Montgomery County Public Health wants to ensure everyone stays healthy for this holiday season and is offering safety tips.

Food is always an important part of holiday festivities, but holiday meals can take a turn for the worse if food safety isn’t a regular ingredient in preparing and cooking the food. The food can be very harmful if not handled safely or refrigerated promptly.

Foodborne disease infections continue to be a serious health issue in the United States, causing an estimated one in six Americans (or 48 million people) to become sick each year. The most common foodborne diseases associated with meat, poultry and fish are Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli. Most people become sick by eating contaminated foods or beverages or by coming in contact with someone who has a foodborne illness. Pregnant women, older adults, infants and young children, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections.

Here are a few safety tips:

∫ Clean — Remember to wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Wash all kitchen utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot water and soap.

∫ Separate — Try to use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and a separate one for fresh produce. Keep fish and seafood, raw turkey, roasts, hams and other meats and their juices separate from other side dishes when preparing meals.

∫ Cook — Cook meat and poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature: turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to 165 degrees; beef, veal and lamb roasts to 145; “fully cooked” ham to 140 and fresh ham, pork, and egg dishes to 160. Use a food thermometer. Egg products can be substituted in recipes typically made with raw eggs, such as eggnog, custard or key lime pie. Be sure that eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked when serving those at higher risk for foodborne illness.

∫ Chill — Chill food promptly. Keep the fridge at 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria from growing. Custard pies and other egg dishes should always be kept cool. Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours. Remember to never defrost food at room temperature.

Remember, be “food safe” during the holidays by following the four basic steps of food safety.

For more food safety tips, visit the Be Food Safe website at

By Josh Bovee

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