The Partnership for Food Safety Education reminds us that foodborne bacteria – called BAC – loves parties. And this unwelcome guest can make you, and your guests, sick. When you’re entertaining a crowd, and when food preparation gets hectic, it’s easy to accidentally mishandle food and create opportunities for contamination.

Here are some tips from that can help keep BAC from ruining your Turkey Day feast.

Plan Ahead

  • Make sure you have the right equipment, including cutting boards, utensils, food thermometers, cookware, shallow containers for storage, soap and paper towels.
  • Plan on enough storage space in the refrigerator and freezer. In the refrigerator, air needs to circulate to keep the temperature at 40 °F or below. Use an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator to monitor the temperature.

When You Shop

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from fruit, vegetables, other foods and cleaning supplies in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.
  • Check that fresh cut fruits and vegetables - like packaged salads and precut melons - are refrigerated at the store before buying. Don’t buy fresh cut items that aren’t refrigerated.
  • Buy cold foods last. Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs for perishables. Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours. Refrigerate within one hour when the temperature outside is above 90 °F.
  • Avoid canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted. These are the warning signs that dangerous bacteria may be growing in the can.

Working in the Kitchen

  • Make sure that anyone who helps in the kitchen knows the four basic food safety rules – clean, separate, cook and chill.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Sponges and kitchen towels can easily soak up bacteria and cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces and hands. It can be safer to use paper towels.
  • Try to keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible to keep it at a safe temperature.

Leftover Lessons

  • Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures above 90 °F. This also includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions to this rule? Foods like cookies, crackers, breads and whole fruits.
  • Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food. Leftovers stored in the fridge should be eaten within 3-4 days. Leftovers should be heated to 165°F prior to consumption.
  • Foods stored longer may become unsafe to eat and cause foodborne illness. Do not taste leftovers that appear to be safe – bacteria that causes illness does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

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