Holiday Food Safety

Bacteria Basics

Did you know that bacteria need food, warmth, oxygen and moisture to survive? “Bacteria are everywhere but a few types especially like to crash parties.

Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people's hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted,” warns the Food and Drug Administration.

Food Safety FAQs

Why is food safety important?
During the winter and summer, there are plenty of opportunities to gather with friends and co-workers. Usually these events are centered around meals. Potlucks, cookouts, church events and catered meals offer times to spread good cheer.

The Orange County Health Department warns that these events can also be opportunities to spread illness. Food borne outbreaks can happen at any occasion and at any time, but the holiday meals can be a recipe for disaster if hosts and those who prepare food don't follow smart food safety practices.

What are good temperature controls?
Good temperature control guidelines include:

Keep hot foods hot (at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter) and cold foods cold (at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder), buffet items may require heated pans or ice trays to maintain proper temperatures

  • Throw out food held over 2 hours at room temperature
  • Heat foods quickly - do not put cold or frozen food in a crock pot without first heating to at least 17 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cool foods quickly - separate bulk foods into small/shallow containers, or use an ice bath to cool foods quickly
  • Large food portions should be divided into smaller dishes before refrigerated
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked thoroughly (internal temperatures):
  • Poultry - 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ground Beef - 155 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pork - 150 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Beef - 130 degrees Fahrenheit to 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Leftovers - 165 degrees Fahrenheit

How can I keep things clean?
Do the following to help keep things clean:

  • Wash hands and serving areas thoroughly and often
  • Clean cutting boards, sponges, and utensils thoroughly, especially when switching to a new food item
  • Avoid cross contamination by keeping foods separated during preparation especially meats and raw vegetables
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and keep them refrigerated if possible

How should I handle food?
The responsibility for the health of your guests may just be in your hands. Whether you are hosting a holiday function or are a guest who brings a dish, please keep these food tips in mind:

  • Be wary of eggnog or other foods containing uncooked eggs, especially if they are not kept refrigerated (Look for pasteurized eggs at the grocery store)
  • Go straight home from the grocery: Perishables shouldn’t sit in the car and refrigerate within 2 hours of purchase
  • Raw meat juices may leak from packaging. Wrap and store meats away from foods typically served uncooked (fruits/vegetables).
  • Select food items that are fresh and within date
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator and plan ahead - an average turkey can take up to 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator

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