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Health dept. offers holiday food tips
The state Department of Health (DOH) released a few tips for Washington residents on holiday food preparation and storage, citing the fact that "each year, hundreds of people in Washington become ill and some are hospitalized because food they ate at a holiday meal was handled or prepared in an unsafe way."
For buying and preparing holiday foods and meals, the DOH recommends:
• Keeping raw meats separate from other foods, especially fruit and vegetables in your shopping cart and grocery bags. Raw meats that are wrapped for display often leak. Put meat into a plastic bag to prevent drips that may contaminate other food.
• Always washing hands, before food preparing food and after handling raw meats. According to the DOH, "inadequate hand washing is a leading cause of foodborne disease."
• Don't wash raw turkey or chicken. Doing so increases the chances of spreading harmful bacteria around the kitchen, the DOH notes.
• Keep the kitchen and utensils clean. Wash any implement or object that comes into contact with raw meat.
• Don't re-use a wash or dish cloth after wiping countertops, especially if it was used to wipe up juices from raw meats.
• Thaw meat, especially turkey, in the refrigerator.
• Cook food to a safe internal temperature. A food thermometer is an easy and relatively cheap item to find in a local store.
• 165 degrees F is the ideal temperature for turkey, chicken, and poultry (including stuffing, whole and ground meat)
• Whole cuts, such as roasts, steaks, chops, beef, pork, veal and lamb should be cooked to 145 degrees F. The DOH notes that when preparing these kind of items, allow three minutes of rest time after pulling from the cooking device.
• Ground beef, port, hamburger or egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
• Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F.
• The DOH suggests that food should be refrigerated right away. It cautions to not leave food on the counter to cool down. Cut or divide solid food, like turkey, into small pieces and cool in containers without lids in the refrigerator. Wait until the food is cold, below 45 degrees F, before putting the lid on the container.
For serving those holiday meals, the DOH recommends:
• Refrigerating, reheating or throwing away perishable food after two hours at room temperature
• Thinking small. Those serving food should arrange and serve food on several small plates instead of one large one. Keep the rest of the food either hot or cold.
• Keep hot foods hot, above 140 degrees F. Use warming trays or pots.
• Keep cold foods cold - below 41 degrees F. Nest dishes in bowls of ice, if possible.
• Don't serve raw eggs mixed into drinks or food
For storing, DOH has two simple recommendations:
• Refrigerate leftovers immediately
• Reheating all leftovers to at least 165 degrees F.