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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.

12/6/12 - Keeping Your Holiday Kitchen Safe

The holidays are a time of year we all look forward to, not just for the fun time with family and friends, or the gifts we exchange, but also for the extravagant holiday spreads we get to feast upon. I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal for my whole family this year. This was my first turkey, and that was quite an adventure to say the least! I learned a lot of great skills/knowledge about meal preparation for a large group.

When cooking for others the "rules" become more of a concern, because if something goes awry its not just yourself that is affected. The spread of germs and risk of foodborne illness is a lot more in the fore front of our minds when cooking for those we love. Every year, one in six Americans gets sick from dangerous foodborne bacteria, and annually, the number of reported these reported incidents increases with the holiday season. The simple words Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill can serve as reminders to always handle food safely to reduce risk of illness to you and your family.

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get on hands, cutting boards, knives and countertops. Frequent cleaning can keep that from happening. Use hot water and soap to clean the sink, counters, cutting boards, pans, knives, thermometer and other utensils and serving pieces. You might want to sanitize the countertop and your cutting boards.

Have plenty of clean cloth towels on hand for the meal preparation and clean-up. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water just before eating. Rub firm-skin produce (or scrub with clean brush) under running tap water.

Sanitize any utensil, equipment or food contact surface after it has been in contact with raw foods, especially meat or eggs.

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. Remind others who will be in the kitchen handling food to wash their hands too.

Cross-contamination is how bacteria spreads. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Store turkey on bottom shelf of refrigerator in a rimmed pan to catch any leaking juices and prevent it from dripping on other foods.

Designate separate cutting boards for raw meats or clean and sanitize cutting boards between uses for different foods.

Even for experienced cooks, the improper heating and preparation of food means bacteria can survive. Use a food thermometer – you can't tell food is cooked safely by how it looks. Make sure you have a food thermometer and calibrate it if necessary. Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine desired "doneness" of meat, poultry and egg products. Cooking these foods to a safe minimum internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer will destroy any harmful microorganisms.

Bacteria spreads fastest at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, so chilling food properly (keep a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below) is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Check the temperature of your refrigerator. It should be 40 °F or below as measured with an appliance thermometer.


Cooking can be a wonderful expression of love and care. Keeping these principles in mind will help keep not only ourselves safe, but helps ensure that our loved ones will be safe when eating the fruits of our labor!

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