GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – With the clock counting down to Christmas, families have already been looking at their holiday meal shopping requirements. Cooking up a storm for this holiday season is one of the Christmas traditions.
Part of the excitement of the holidays is the traditional foods of the season. However, some of these foods can pose hazards that can ruin more than just a holiday meal – they can cause serious illness and even death.
As part of Collective Prevention Services (CPS), Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Safe Holiday Season calendar of observances, in collaboration with the Department of Communications (DCOMM), residents are advised to keep the season safe by following some tips on how to enjoy holiday meals safely.
To Make Sure Bacteria are not allowed to Grow:
1. Use a thermometer. Be sure stuffing, chicken and any other poultry dishes are cooked thoroughly to 165 degrees F; ground beef and ham must be cooked thoroughly to 155 degrees F. All other foods, including eggs should be cooked to 145 degrees F.
2. Do not leave foods containing meat, milk, eggs, fish or poultry at room temperature for more than four hours. This includes pudding and custard-type pies that are popular during the holidays.
3. Cool all leftovers to 41 degrees F within four hours after cooking.
4. Do not thaw foods at room temperature. Plan ahead and thaw them in the refrigerator. If the food needs to be thawed quickly, use the microwave or cold running water and then cook promptly after it has thawed.
5. If you are traveling with food, be sure to keep it cold 41. F. or hot 140 F or above while transporting.
6. After the big meal, be sure to refrigerate any leftovers within 1 hour. Bacteria love room temperatures and grow quickly in amounts enough to make people ill.
To Prevent Food from Becoming Contaminated
1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water before food preparation and after coughing, sneezing, using the toilet, changing diapers, eating, drinking or smoking.
2. Do not prepare or handle foods if you are ill; a cook’s gastrointestinal illness could be spread to others sharing the meal.
3. Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, cutting boards and other utensils before and after preparing raw foods and foods that do not require further cooking. Sanitize with a solution of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.
4. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables.
Contrary to popular belief, if you do become ill from contaminated food, it is not always the last meal you ate that’s the culprit. Food-borne illness can occur anywhere from one hour to 72 hours and even longer after eating contaminated food.
Please help make this holiday season safer by paying attention to proper food preparation and handling techniques.