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Keep Food-Borne Illness Off Your Holiday Menu

The North Georgia Health District offers these tips.

As you lovingly serve roasted turkey, baked ham, delicious casseroles and decadent desserts to family and friends this holiday season, don’t let food-borne illness be one of your secret ingredients.

Festive times are for giving and sharing, but that should never include sharing food-borne illness. Here are some tips from the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) to help you have SAFE holiday festivities.

Safely handle food. Always wash your hands before and after handling food – especially raw meat and poultry – and keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean, as well.

Cook thoroughly. Be sure to cook food thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures. To learn more about safe temperatures for various foods, log onto www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/How_Temperatures_Affect_Food/index.asp.

Use shallow containers. Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165°F.

Follow the two-hour rule. Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Discard anything that has been sitting out for two hours or more.

Keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer and cold foods should be held at 40 °F or colder.

According to the USDA, bacteria are everywhere but food-borne bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus,Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes) are especially likely to crash holiday parties because they tend to frequent people's hands. Unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted; therefore, the best prevention of spreading food-borne bacteria is safe food handling.

If illness occurs, however, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.

For more information about food-borne illness and its prevention, log onto www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Focus_On_Holiday_or_Party_Buffets/index.asp.

Editor's note: These tips were prepared by the North Georgia Health District.

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