Food safety tips to prevent foodborne illness this holiday season

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The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) encourages residents to take precautions to prevent foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning. Each year, 48 million people in the United States will get sick from a foodborne illness, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Safe handling, preparation and storage of food can help prevent foodborne illness due to contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins.

“Food safety is important, especially when preparing and serving large quantities of food for holiday gatherings, potlucks and other events,” said Laura Cronquist, epidemiologist with the NDDoH. “While foodborne illness can happen to anyone. People at highest risk for severe illness include young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and those with long-term health conditions.”

The NDDoH recommends the following food safety tips to keep you, your family and your friends healthy:

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Always wash your hands with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Thaw your turkey safely. Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Follow four simple food safety tips from the CDC to help you safely prepare your holiday turkey.
  • Keep raw poultry and meat separate from other foods. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
  • Cook food thoroughly. Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Review safe internal cooking temperatures. Learn more about safe internal temperatures for various foods by reviewing this chart from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Keep hot foods at 140 °F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep foods at a safe temperature on the table.
  • Keep cold foods at or below 40 °F. Place plates of cold food on ice to retain the chill.
  • Be aware of the two-hour rule. Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Discard any perishable foods that have been sitting out for two hours or more. Use shallow containers to allow quick cooling of cooked foods in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • If you are or have been sick recently, avoid preparing food for others. It is important that if you have been sick with vomiting or diarrhea that you have been symptom free for at least two days before you prepare food for other people.

Common symptoms of foodborne illness include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The NDDoH advises consulting a health care provider if you have signs of severe illness, including bloody diarrhea, fever higher than 102 °F, frequent vomiting, dehydration, or diarrhea that lasts more than three days.

To learn more about food safety or to report a possible foodborne illness, please contact the NDDoH at (701) 328-2378.

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