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Safeguard Your Food for the Holidays

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- ‘Tis the season to be jolly, including enjoying great food! Unfortunately, holiday meals can quickly spoil the fun if food safety isn't an ingredient in preparing your meal.

You may be a world famous chef or just proud not burning a grilled cheese sandwich. Whatever the case, following these few simple steps from the 366th Medical Group will reduce the risk of a foodborne illness ruining your holiday celebrations this year.

Clean: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food. Wash all utensils, dishes and countertops. Rinse fresh produce with water.

Separate: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and their juices separate from fruits, vegetables and cooked foods. Never use a utensil on cooked foods that was previously used on uncooked foods, unless it's washed first with soap and water.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to make sure it's cooked to a safe internal temperature. Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit; beef, veal, and lamb roasts should be cooked to 145 degrees; and ham, pork, and egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees.

Chill: Refrigerate food quickly after serving. Keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of being cooked. Never thaw a turkey, ham or other frozen meat at room temperature. Thawing should be done in the refrigerator. Allow 2.5 to 3 hours per pound for thawing time. This equates to 24 to 36 hours for a 12-pound turkey. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

To be sure the foods you present at a party are safe and free of bacteria, follow the same guidelines already mentioned. Also, never partially cook foods to be finished at a later time. Thoroughly chill foods to be transported and avoid cooking them more than 12 hours ahead of the event. Check with the potluck host to be sure there is adequate room to safely store your dish before and after the meal. If you do not have reliable coolers, opt for foods like snacks, cookies and cakes that can be safely transported without chilling.

Be food safe this holiday season. Happy eating! For additional food safety tips, visit www.foodsafety.gov or call the 366th Medical Group's Public Health Flight at 208-828-7820.