Monday, November 20, 2006

Holiday Food - Safety Tips

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving But Take Care With These Cooking Tips

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging consumers to follow food safety measures during the upcoming holiday season.  More than 76 million people are sickened by food-borne illnesses every year in the United States, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and more than 5,000 fatalities.  Many food- borne illnesses are preventable if consumers take steps to protect themselves and their families.

      -- Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, not the counter. Room temperatures promote bacteria growth. Allow one day of defrosting for each five pounds of turkey weight.
     -- Cook the stuffing separate from the turkey.  Stuffing put in an uncooked turkey is susceptible to bacteria growth.

     -- Cook to the proper temperatures.  A whole turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.  The stuffing in a turkey should reach a temperature of 165 F degrees.  Cooking a turkey at less than 325 degrees F is unsafe because it allows the bird and stuffing to remain in the danger zone for bacterial growth for too long.

     -- Don't interrupt the cooking process.  Interrupting the cooking process promotes bacteria growth.
     -- Slice the turkey before refrigerating.  Whole turkeys do not store safely in the refrigerator.  Put the slices into shallow containers, cover and refrigerate.

     -- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

     -- Be careful with holiday buffets.  Servings should be kept small and replenished often -- directly from the stove or refrigerator.  The longer food is kept out, especially beyond two hours, the higher the risk of food poisoning.

      -- Carefully store leftovers.  To speed up the cooling process, put leftovers into shallow, covered containers and keep refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees F or below.  Perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than two hours are susceptible to bacterial growth.

      -- Thoroughly wash hands, cutting boards and utensils before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

     -- Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood apart from foods that won't be cooked.

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