UA Matters: Food Safety During the Holidays
There tends to be a lot of cooking, and eating, happening during the holidays.
The University of Alabama’s Diane Bridgewater offers suggestions on how to ensure your food is safely stored and prepared so you and your guests can thoroughly enjoy each and every bite.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold as much as possible – before, during and after the meal. We spend a lot of time planning cooked food but maybe not enough planning our cold food. During preparation, start with all chilled ingredients and return the final product to the refrigerator as quickly as possible (items like deviled eggs or potato salad). Bacteria grow well between 41°F and 135°F, but they grow even faster between 70°F and 120°F. Room temperature (or a warm kitchen) falls into the temperature range that the bacteria really like.
- We are becoming more concerned with food waste, so only purchase and prepare amounts of food that can be consumed in a reasonable amount of time. Food prepared at home should not be kept, even in the refrigerator, for more than seven days. If your family isn’t good about eating leftovers, try to prepare smaller quantities, or plan to quickly freeze leftovers for a later date. This will also decrease the amount of food that stays out at room temperature after the meal is over and everyone is relaxed and visiting.
- There is an old saying – “when in doubt, throw it out,” especially if you will be entertaining families with a wide age range. Healthy individuals usually have a strong immune system, but some individuals are more susceptible to foodborne illness — young children, the elderly and any other individuals with weakened immune systems –so don’t take any chances with these groups.
- There are many companies that sponsor webpages and phone lines during the holidays to help everyone enjoy this special time of year.
Bridegwater is an instructor in human nutrition and hospitality management in UA’s College of Human Environmental Sciences.
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