Tricounty News

Food safety for holiday celebrations



By Deb Botzek-Linn,

U of M Extension

As the holidays approach, we enjoy celebrating with family and friends over a buffet of hors d’ouvres, an office potluck or a traditional family feast – be sure to keep the food safe!

Our hectic holiday pace can lead to food safety shortcuts and errors that could cause foodborne illness, those flu-like symptoms following a holiday meal.


Plan your holiday menus with food safety in mind. Do you have the refrigerator space to keep cold foods cold? Or, the stove space or hot-holding equipment to keep hot foods hot?

Keep cold foods below
41 degrees F and hot foods above 140 degrees F. Do you have a food thermometer to check for safe food temperatures? Food thermometers make a great stocking-stuffer!


Cook to proper temperatures. All poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, pork, beef and lamb 145 degrees F and ground meat 160 degrees F. Reheated food should be brought to 165 degrees F. Check with a food thermometer.

Food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Serve food on several small platters rather than one large platter and replace frequently. Do not add food to a dish that has been sitting out.

Prevent cross-contamination. Don’t let bacteria spread from raw meat, poultry or seafood juices to ready-to-eat food such as salads, raw fruit and vegetables, meat and cheese trays and desserts.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands, wash your hands! Most bacteria get into food through careless handling. Wash your hands for 20 seconds in warm soapy water before, during and after handling food.

When in doubt, throw it out! When the gathering is over, throw out any perishable foods that have sat at room temperature for two hours or more. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within two to three days, or plan to freeze.

Questions on safe holiday food preparation? Home economists are ready to answer your questions at these toll-free numbers: USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854, and the University of Minnesota Extension Answerline at (800) 854-1678.