Separate raw foodsThe holiday season that begins on Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s means many things to many people. One thing it means to most of us is food.

Meals and appetizers with family and friends help make the holiday season special. But there can be a downside to all that delicious food. If it isn’t prepared, cooked, and stored properly, it can leave everyone with foodborne illness.

Even though the American food supply is among the safest in the world, an estimated 128,000 people each year require a hospital stay because of foodborne illness, resulting in about 3,000 deaths. Overall there are about 48 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. each year, affecting one in six Americans.

Here are some simple steps to protect yourself and others: 

  • Start with clean hands and clean equipment.
  • Clean your produce before cooking to remove potential contaminants. 
  • Separate foods to prevent cross-contamination. Don’t use the same utensils or cutting boards for uncooked chicken and other food items like vegetables you will eat raw, for example.
  • Cook your turkey to 165 degrees. A food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast and innermost part of the thigh and wing will help you know that meat is cooked thoroughly.
  • Chill the leftovers within 2 hours to prevent bacteria from gaining a foothold.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.

Those most likely to have the serious health concerns from foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, are those younger than 5 or older than 65, as well as pregnant women and those with immune systems weakened by disease, chemotherapy, or dialysis. 

Most foodborne illnesses happen suddenly and last for a short time. Symptoms may include cramping, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

We have more food safety tips on our website. And please keep COVID-19 safety in mind as well as you plan holiday gatherings, starting with getting vaccinated and getting a booster dose if you are eligible.