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- Reduce the Risk of Illness This Holiday Season by Serving Up Food Safety at Every Meal, Health Unit Says -

Avoid foodborne illness this holiday season by keeping food safety in mind when gathering with friends and family to enjoy a home-cooked meal and the usual festive fixings.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is reminding local residents that proper and safe food handling is even more important when people get together to celebrate the season. Food that is contaminated by viruses, parasites and bacteria such as Campylobacter can spoil the fun of holiday get-togethers and make people very sick, warns a Health Unit staff member.

“Food is a big part of the festivities, so preparing foods safely should be a priority to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.

Foodborne illness occurs more frequently than people think, he adds. Each year, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimates one in eight Canadians, or four million people, will get sick from a foodborne illness. In many cases, foodborne illness can result when people do not consistently follow safe food-handling practices.

“A large percentage of foodborne illness cases take place in the home, so don’t open the door to this unwanted guest,” Ovcharovich adds. “A recipe for food safety is one of the best things to serve family and friends this holiday season.”

To reduce the risk of illness this holiday season, the Health Unit offers the following food safety tips:

  • Get off to a clean start. Wash hands, utensils and surfaces with hot soapy water before, during, and after preparing foods. Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils with a mild bleach and water solution. Wash all produce thoroughly before preparing, eating or cooking.
  • Remember the two-hour rule when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Perishable foods should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. If in doubt, throw it out!
  • Cook foods thoroughly and serve immediately. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or slow cookers that measure at least 60C (140F). Keep cold foods cold by resting serving dishes on crushed ice.
  • When serving food, use small bowls or trays. This helps to ensure the temperature of food remains even, and also prevents food from being left out too long.
  • When travelling, wrap hot food in foil, heavy towels or insulated containers to keep a 60ºC (140ºF) temperature. Reheat thoroughly before serving. Put cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep them at 4ºC (40ºF) or lower.
  • If preparing a frozen turkey for the holidays, start thawing it in the fridge several days before roasting. Allow 24 hours of defrosting time for every 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of turkey. Ensure leaking juices do not contaminate other foods in the fridge. Never thaw a turkey on the kitchen counter.
  • The goal of cooking a turkey is to reach high enough internal cooking temperatures (82ºC/180ºF) to kill bacteria. Rather than checking for the juices to run clear to let you know the turkey is done, it is better to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The best place to check the temperature is the inner thigh just above the bone. Stuffing should be cooked outside the turkey and reach a temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
  • Leftovers should be refrigerated promptly in shallow containers so they cool quickly. Avoid leaving turkey sitting out for snacking after a meal. Use leftover turkey and other cooked dishes within four days.
  • While unpasteurized apple cider is a popular holiday beverage, it may contain E.coli. To be sure cider is safe, buy cider that is labelled pasteurized.

For more food safety tips, contact your local Health Unit office or visit www.hkpr.on.ca

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For media inquiries, contact:

Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569.

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