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- Make Festive Food Safety Part of the Holiday Plans at Your Home, Health Unit Says -

When it comes to holiday gift ideas, Dharminder Kaler encourages people to put food safety near the top of their list.

Kaler, a Public Health Inspector with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, says that cases of foodborne illness can throw a wrench into the holiday celebrations. Every year, the federal government estimates that one in eight Canadians will be affected by foodborne illness, with food prepared at home being one of the main causes of illness. With many holiday meals and seasonal gatherings planned in coming weeks, Kaler says festive food safety is essential.

“Food that becomes contaminated due to improper food handling or undercooking could make people sick, spoiling what is supposed to be a happy holiday,” he notes. “During this festive time of year, we encourage people to take the time to properly prepare, handle, cook and store food.”

Local residents are encouraged to follow these festive food safety tips:

• Get off to a clean start. Buy food from approved sources, then ensure food is stored at recommended temperatures (refrigerator at 4⁰C or less, and freezer at -18⁰C or less). 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 (two teaspoons of bleach in one litre of water). Thoroughly wash produce with water before preparing, eating or cooking.

• If preparing a frozen turkey for a holiday meal, 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. Place the thawing turkey on the lowest shelf in a plate or tray to prevent the leaking juices from contaminating other foods in the fridge. Never thaw a turkey on kitchen counters.

• The goal of cooking a turkey is to reach a high enough internal temperature (82⁰C/180⁰F for 15 seconds) to kill bacteria. Rather than checking for the juices to run clear to let you know the turkey is done, it’s better to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. To check the cooking temperature, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey and record the temperature from at least three or four places to ensure consistency of cooking.

• Cook foods thoroughly and serve immediately. Use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature of food. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or slow cookers that measure at least 60⁰C (140⁰F). Keep cold foods cold by resting serving dishes on crushed ice.

• When serving food, use small bowls or trays. This ensures the food temperature remains even, and helps prevent food from being left out too long.

• Remember the two-hour rule. Hazardous foods should not be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. When in doubt, throw it out!• Leftovers should be cooled quickly and promptly refrigerated. Avoid leaving turkey sitting out for snacking after a meal. Use leftover turkey and other cooked dishes within four days. Never use leftovers as leftovers.

For more food safety tips, visit the Festive Food Safety page or call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 and speak to a Public Health Inspector.

For media inquiries, contact:

Dharminder Kaler, Public Health Inspector, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 2209.

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