With the holiday season upon us, the Shiawassee County Health Department reminds consumers about the importance of safe food handling to prevent foodborne illness in the home. Millions of people are sickened by foodborne illnesses every year, which can be caused by improper food handling and inadequate sanitation in the kitchen. Don’t let foodborne illness “spoil” your holiday festivities. Follow these simple tips to reduce the risk:

*Keep hands and food contact surfaces clean: *Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food (especially raw foods), after using the toilet, after changing diapers and after handling pets. Dry hands with a clean, single-use paper towel.

*Thoroughly clean all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water before and after each use. Sanitize surfaces with bleach/water solution (one tablespoon per gallon of water) after rinsing, especially if contacted with raw meats. Knives, cutting boards and meat grinders should be washed thoroughly before using them for other foods. *Sponges and cloth dish towels can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Disinfect your sponge by soaking in bleach solution and always use a fresh dishtowel.

*Keep foods separate – Don’t cross contaminate: *Always wash fruits and vegetables in clean sinks and keep produce away from raw meats, poultry, eggs, fish and any other raw animal product. *If you wash your turkey or other meat products in your kitchen sink before cooking, Always clean and sanitize the sink and area around it because water and meat juices can splatter and spread contaminants in your kitchen.

*Carefully store raw meats in your refrigerator. Meat juices may leak from the package and contaminate other foods. If possible, store raw meats on the lower shelf.

*Cook foods to proper temperatures: Always use a properly calibrated meat thermometer to ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked. To accurately measure the temperature, insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, but not against the bone. Turkey and other poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to kill pathogens that may be present. Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 degrees and ground meat should be cooked to at least 155 degrees. *Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees throughout.

**Properly Refrigerate Leftovers: All leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible. *Rapid bacterial growth can occur at room temperatures. *Leftovers should be rapidly cooled to reduce bacterial growth. During the cooling process, place the warm food in shallow containers or in shallow layers (no more than 2 inches thick). Food should be fully cooled down to refrigeration temperature as quickly as possible. Foods shouldn’t be tightly covered during the cooling process. *Refrigerators should be set at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. *Unfrozen refrigerated leftovers should be discarded after 7 days.

For more information persons may visit the Shiawassee County Health Department website at http://health.shiawassee.net or call (989) 743-2392.

Food Safety Recommendations was last modified: December 28th, 2015 by Karen Elford