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5 Tips for Food Safety During the Holidays


Getting together with friends and family to cook and eat traditional meals is a major part of many holiday celebrations. While you’re celebrating with your family this holiday, make sure to also be aware of food safety so that you can avoid spreading any food-related illnesses that could ruin your time together.

Each year, the Tufts MC and Tufts Children's Hospital emergency rooms see a number of patients who have gotten ill because of improper food cleaning, cooking or storing methods. The most common foodborne illnesses that we see are Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.

Our emergency department team has put together a few tips to help you be “food safe” during the holidays.

1. Proper hand hygiene is very important when you’re cooking. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling all food products.

2. It’s also important to make sure that you wash your kitchen utensils, dishes and counters with hot water and soap before and after they touch your food. Use one cutting board for raw meat and seafood and a separate board for fresh produce. 

3. Cooking multiple dishes at once can get a little crazy. Keep seafood, turkey, roasts, hams and all other meats and their juices separate from other side dishes while you’re prepping the meal.

4. Cook your main and side dishes to the appropriate temperatures using a food thermometer:

Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers: 165F
Beef, veal and lamb: 145F
Fully cooked ham: 140F
Fresh ham, pork and egg dishes: 160F

It is especially important to make sure that eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked when serving those at higher risk for foodborne illness (pregnant women, older adults, infants and young children and those with weakened immune systems).

5. Custard pies and other egg dishes should always be kept cool. Other dishes should be stored in a cool refridgerator (should be set to 40F or below to prevent bacteria from growing) within 2 hours after serving. Also, remember to never defrost foods at room temperature.

To learn more, view resources on foodborne illness from the CDC >