Food Safety Best Practices During the Holidays

father and son making dinner

The end of the year is normally when friends and families come together to share conversations, make memories, have fun and, of course, eat! Cooking and food have a way of connecting people, especially during Michigan’s cold winters. But, nothing sours a meal more than food poisoning. Whether you’re a seasoned home chef or are green to cooking, it’s important to follow food safety tips.

Food Safety Basics: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill

You can learn how to prevent harmful bacteria on the Oakland County Health Division’s website. Below are four easy steps to basic food safety:

  1. Clean: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.
  2. Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from ready-to-eat foods.
  3. Cook: Foods are safely cooked when they are heated for a long enough time, and to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
  4. Chill: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria, the greater the chance of getting sick. Refrigerate foods quickly to keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.

Food Internal Temperature Chart for Cooking

Cooking food items at high temperatures kills harmful germs that cause food-borne illnesses. Use the guidelines below from for cooking raw meat, poultry, seafood and other foods to a safe minimum internal temperature. Always use a food thermometer to determine the temperature. Additionally, some meats need to rest before being cut and served to be fully cooked and retain the best flavor.

FoodInternal Temperature
Beef, bison, veal, goat and lamb (steaks, roasts, chops)145°F, rest for 3 min.
Beef, bison, veal, goat and lamb
(ground meat, sausage)
(meat and meatless)
Chicken, turkey and other poultry (whole bird, breasts, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, sausage, stuffing inside poultry)165°F 
Eggs (raw)Cook until yolk and white are firm
Eggs (frittata, quiche)160°F 
Eggs (casseroles containing meat and poultry)165°F 
Ham (raw)145°F, rest for 3 min.
Ham (pre-cooked)165°F (74°C)
Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140°F (60°C)
Leftovers (any type)165°F 
Pork (steaks, roasts, chops)145°F, rest for 3 min.
Pork (ground meat, sausage)160°F 
Rabbit and venison160°F
Fish (whole or filet salmon, tuna, tilapia, pollock, bass, cod, catfish, trout, etc.)145°F or cook until flesh is no longer translucent and separates easily with a fork
Shrimp, lobster, crab, scallopsCook until flesh is pearly/white and opaque
Clams, oysters, musselsCook until shells open during cooking

Maintaining Safe Food Temperatures

Whether you are bringing appetizers to a work potluck or side dishes to a family gathering, it’s important to maintain the temperature of your food during transport. All cold dishes should be kept in a cooler with ice to keep them at or below 40°F. All hot dishes should be kept in an insulated bag or wrapped in towels and newspaper to keep them at or above 140°F.

Bacteria can grow quickly when food is between 40°F and 140°F, so perishable leftovers should be put away in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours. If perishable food is left out for more than two hours, it should be thrown out. If you are unsure of the best way to store leftovers, visit the FoodKeeper App. The FoodKeeper App helps you enjoy food items at their peak freshness.

People at Risk of Food Poisoning

Food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and other substances can affect anyone who eats it. However, adults 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting sick from food poisoning. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, you may need to swap food items, such as exchanging a soft brie for a hard cheddar on your charcuterie board. You can discover more options with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Safer Choices Chart.

For more information on food safety this holiday season, visit the Oakland County Health Division website. Follow along with them for more safety tips and health news on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow along with Oakland County on FacebookInstagramLinkedInPinterestTwitter, and YouTube using #OaklandCounty, or visit our website for news and events year-round.

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