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MU Experts Offer Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Nov. 14, 2007

Story Contact:  Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - We all know that the food is one of the best parts of the holiday season-though not always best for the waistline. During the festivities this year, however, it is important to remember safe, responsible food and drink preparation and serving, according to Richard Fancher, sanitarian in the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety. To minimize trouble this year, Fancher offers the following tips:

• Maintain clean utensils, preparation surfaces and hands by washing utensils and surfaces between preparations of different food groups (i.e. uncooked meat and salads) and washing your hands before and after food preparation, serving and eating.

• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot items should be kept above 135 degrees while cold items should be kept below 41 degrees. 

• Leftovers? Refrigerate them immediately and use within two days. Items should be reheated to 165 degrees.

• Be especially carefully with meat items, dairy products, eggs, pumpkin pies, custard and cream pies. All must be refrigerated immediately.

• Don’t thaw turkey, poultry or other large meat items at room temperature, as bacteria that are the most common cause of food-borne illness grows best in this environment.  Instead, place them in the refrigerator before preparation (one day for every five to eight pounds).

• While it’s important to have the holiday spirit, don’t drive after too many “spirits.” Assign designated drivers at parties, dinners or gatherings. Also, be careful when walking after a few drinks. One out of every four holiday season accidents involves a pedestrian who has been drinking.

• Never leave your stove or oven unattended as it can cause a fire. Keep stove/oven/ducts free of grease and ensure a properly operating fire extinguisher is close. Keep a close eye on toddlers and young children, keeping them away from the active kitchen cooking area and never leave pot handles extending over the front of the stove.

“The holidays are times of the year to spend with our family and friends,” Fancher said. “However, it’s important to make sure we handle food properly and keep everyone safe and healthy during our celebrations.”

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