An Ounce of Prevention: Holiday Food Safety
by Maye Musk, MS, MS, RD
There is one “gift” no one wants to give or receive this holiday season — food poisoning. There are an estimated 2.2 million cases of food poisoning per year in Canada, with up to 99 per cent of cases going unreported.
About Food Poisoning
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Contracting food poisoning can be dangerous for infants, young children, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems. Keep yourself and others healthy by taking the appropriate steps when preparing, cooking, serving and storing food.
A Healthy Habit
Up to half of all cases food poisoning stem from improper hand washing. Frequent and proper hand washing can also reduce the spread of the common cold and flu. If you are preparing or serving food, keep these techniques in mind:
* Wash hands front and back, up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails and rings.
* Wash hands in warm, soapy water before preparing foods and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood.
* Dry hands with paper towels rather than hand towels, which can harbor bacteria.
Storing and Serving Food
Hot food that is being transported should be wrapped in foil and heavy towels, or transported in containers designed to keep food hot (60 degrees C or higher). If you will not be eating the hot food right away, you should place it in an oven to maintain an internal food temperature of 60 degrees C or higher, or refrigerate it immediately.
Cold food should maintain a temperature of 4 degrees C or lower. A cooler with ice or freezer packs should be used when transporting cold foods. You should also refrigerate cold food as soon as you receive it, if you don’t plan to eat it right away.
Always keep food covered and do not leave perishable food out for more than two hours - one hour in a warmer room.
Following these simple food safety tips will help ensure your festive gatherings are remembered for all the right reasons.