As many prepare to share holiday meals with family and friends, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department recommends these safe food handling tips. Foods that have been sitting out for too long can be sources of bacteria that can potentially cause foodborne illness, which affects an average of 76 million people each year. Be wary of any foods — hot or cold — that have been left out for more than two hours. This so-called “danger zone" when food is between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees allows bacteria to multiply. Any perishable foods should be discarded after remaining for two hours at room temperature.
The following food safety tips will allow you to prepare, serve and enjoy a safe holiday meal:
• Wash hands – Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water following restroom use, before preparing foods, after handling raw meat and before eating.
• Clean – Wash and sanitize food-contact surfaces often. To sanitize utensils, immerse for 30 seconds in clean, hot water at 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or immerse for at least one minute in a solution containing one teaspoon of 5.25 percent household bleach per gallon of water. Bacteria can spread and get onto cutting boards, knives and counter tops. Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing.
• Thaw properly – Proper methods for thawing a turkey include thawing in a refrigerator with a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less (allow 3-4 days for thawing); placing under cool running water at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or less; or thawing in microwave and cooking the turkey immediately.
• Take temperatures – Cook turkey at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check temperatures.
• Keep it cold – Cold foods should be kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less. After the turkey is served, immediately slice and refrigerate on shallow platters. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Use gravy within one to two days. If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality.
• Transport safely – Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
• Reheat – Leftover turkey and stuffing should be stored separately in shallow dishes or platters. Rapidly reheat leftovers to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
• When in doubt, throw it out – If you are unsure of how long a particular food item has been left out at room temperature, the best thing to do is discard the item.
The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department wishes you a safe and happy holiday. For more information about food safety, please contact the Division of Environmental Health and Protection at (859) 231-9791.
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