Don’t Let Food Poisoning Ruin Your Holiday

A recent post by nicely summarizes tips to survive the holiday while avoiding a foodborne illness from seasonal treats.

Cookie dough. In one 2016 outbreak, 56 people—aged 1 to 95—were diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections, which can cause bloody diarrhea and may lead to kidney failure. A quarter of affected individuals had to be hospitalized. While we know to avoid eating raw cookie dough because of the raw eggs, in this case the culprit was contaminated flour. Three children got sick after restaurant staff gave them raw dough to play with while waiting for their meals.

To avoid illness linked to toxin-producing E. coli in raw flour (or Salmonella in raw eggs), don’t taste unbaked dough or batter and wash your hands after handling raw flour or eggs.

Cider and eggnog. Resist the temptation to drink or serve unpasteurized cider to your guests, especially if your guest-list includes older adults, children, or those with weakened immune systems. Unpasteurized cider and other unpasteurized juices have been linked to illnesses from Salmonella or pathogenic E. coli. To ensure cider is safe for your guests, mull (heat) the cider with spices. Here’s a safe slow cooker recipe for mulled cider that is sure to please: In a 5-quart slow cooker, place 1 gallon fresh apple cider or unfiltered apple juice, 1 medium orange (cut into 1/4″ thick rounds), 1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled), 5 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, and 1 tablespoon whole cloves. Heat on low for 4 hours. Remove orange pieces and spices and serve warm in mugs with fresh orange slices for decoration.

Eggnog  made with eggs must be pasteurized to ensure safety. Follow previous tips for making safe eggnog at home, or purchase pasteurized (you’ll find it in the dairy case of the grocery store).

Meat and poultry. Make sure to use a food thermometer. Cook steaks, roasts, and chops to 145˚F, then let them rest for at least three minutes. Poultry—turkey, chicken, or duck—needs to reach 165˚F. Fish is done (145˚F) when its flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

Rules for leftovers. Leaving cooked food at room temperature is an invitation for bacteria that can cause food poisoning—like Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus—to multiply. So refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly. Meat and all perishable foods should be left out for no more than 2 hours.  Properly heated and chilled leftovers can be safely enjoyed cold, or reheat to a piping hot 165 degrees before serving.