2012 PRESS RELEASES
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November 15, 2012
FOOD SAFETY IS THE KEY INGREDIENT FOR THANKSGIVING FOOD PREPARATIONS
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686
Kitchens are working overtime all across Virginia as eager cooks produce full course meals with all the trimmings, pies, nut breads, cookies and cakes, plus all the other Thanksgiving favorites. In the midst of all this festive activity, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reminds consumers that the most important ingredient in any recipe is the application of food safety techniques. Take time to review and implement the following basic food safety methods to help protect guests, family members and loved ones from a foodborne illness this year.
Clean – Wash Hands and Surfaces Often: Always wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Remember to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Separate – Don’t Cross-Contaminate: Prevent bacteria from spreading from food to food or platter to platter, especially for raw meat, poultry and seafood. If possible, use separate cutting boards for uncooked meat, poultry and wash the boards thoroughly after each use. Do not put cooked or ready to eat food items on a plate that previously held raw food.
Cook – Cook to Proper Temperatures: It's difficult to tell if a roast is cooked thoroughly just by looking at its color. Rely on a meat thermometer to make certain meats of all sizes and cuts are heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Cook beef, lamb, veal steaks, ribs, roasts and pork chops to an internal temperature of at least 145° F. Ground meats – whether beef, pork roasts, veal or lamb – as well as egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160° F. Cook whole turkeys, turkey breasts, ground turkey, whole chickens, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.
Chill – Refrigerate Promptly: Perishables for a feast require ample refrigeration space before, during and after the party. Make certain there’s room in the refrigerator and freezer to store perishables before the party and for any remaining leftovers afterwards. For buffets and party spreads it’s essential to keep cold foods cold by nesting in bowls of ice. Replenish the ice on a routine basis or return perishable foods to the refrigerator within two hours of exposure at room temperature.
Leftovers – When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Don’t allow leftovers to stack up after the big Thanksgiving dinner. Put perishable leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as you finish eating. Items prepared in large pans or casseroles should be refrigerated in small flat containers to ensure cooling to 40° F or below as quickly as possible. Leave space between containers inside the refrigerator to allow cold air to circulate and preserve the leftovers. As a general rule, when in doubt, throw it out.
When Thanksgiving Day is over and you’re thinking ahead to other holiday meals, remember that the key ingredient is food safety. Click here for more information about food safety, preparation and handling, visit VDACS’ website, or visit the Gateway to Government Food Safety.
ADDITIONAL FOOD SAFETY TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
- Thinking of sending food as a gift this holiday season? Sending a basket of local cheeses and meats is a meaningful gift for long-distant relatives and friends. When sending food such as meat or cheese, always notify the recipient before the gift arrives. Upon arrival, the recipient needs to open the package immediately to determine if the food requires refrigeration, and if the food is still chilled at the proper temperature.
- Turkeys, hams and roasts are typical fare at many holiday feasts. Cooks who donít prepare these items often may need a reminder on how to properly prepare and handle these larger pieces of meat. Frozen turkeys require a much longer time to thaw than the standard-size poultry pieces and cuts of meat served year-round. Itís important to thaw a turkey completely before cooking to ensure that the meat will cook evenly and thoroughly. To check a turkey for doneness, use a meat thermometer and insert it into the inner thigh area near the breast of the turkey away from the bone. When the internal temperature reaches at least 165į F the turkey is done.
- Baking cookies and making eggnog are traditional holiday activities. However, consuming uncooked foods made with raw eggs is a health risk, and this includes cookie dough and eggnog. Resist temptation to lick the beaters or sample the raw cookie dough, and wait until after the cookies have been properly baked. For those who canít resist the taste and texture of raw cookie dough, commercial dough made with pasteurized eggs is an alternative. Pasteurization heats eggs to a high enough temperature to sufficiently kill bacteria. If eggnog is on the menu, use a sterile egg substitute instead of raw eggs, or a recipe that requires heating the mixture or serve a pasteurized eggnog beverage purchased from the store.