‘Tis The Season For Food Safety

Lots of entertaining occurs during the holidays and with all the cooking and food prep both at home and pot lucks, we may forget to think about food safety. The last thing we want to do is make our family, selves or guests sick, maybe very ill, by eating our food.

Handwashing both before and after handling food especially raw meats, is a must, and try to keep raw meat and juices from contaminating kitchen surfaces or other food products and always defrost meat in the refrigerator.

We should all be using a food thermometer to gauge whether our meat is cooked to the safe temperature. Fish, Beef roasts or steaks, and pork all need to reach a temperature of 145 degrees; Chicken, turkey and stuffed meats need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and Ground meat to 155 degrees. Stuffing the turkey is not recommended but you know we all do it, so be safe stuff it loosely and make sure that the internal temperature of the stuffing is also 165 degrees or higher.

Whether setting up a buffet, pot luck or taking a dish to pass, the goal must be keeping food at a safe temperature. Hot food should be maintained at between 135 and 140 degrees or higher and cold food must be kept at or below 40-45 degrees. These temps need to be maintained at these temperatures all through serving time. Use crockpots or roasters or hot plates to help keep things hot and ice or ice packs and coolers to keep cold foods cold.

Now that we have kept everybody safe through the eating of the meal, what about the leftovers? First of all, our refrigerators need to be set at 40 degrees or lower – do you have a thermometer in your fridge? You should. We can’t let the food sit out. Refrigerate uneaten foods as soon as everyone is finished eating the main course before serving dessert. Any hot food in large quantities should be separated into smaller containers. Do not cool food on the counter before putting it in the refrigerator. Discard any food left out more than three hours or was not cooled properly.

We need to reheat all left over foods to 165 degrees or above to destroy any pathogens, food should be steamy hot but you should really use a thermometer to make sure. Symptoms of a foodborne illness may start within hours or as long as a few days from consumption of the food and are flu-like and may include vomiting and or diarrhea and last from hours to days. Heathy immune systems may not have severe reactions but as we age and our immune systems do not work as efficiently symptoms may be severe or even life threatening.

Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining out Program. Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information, 753-4471, 661-7471, or 363-4471