Food Safety

November 30, 2010

Parties, family dinners, and other gatherings where food is served are all part of the holiday cheer. But the merriment can change to misery if food makes you or others ill.

Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment. But foodborne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk:

  • older adults
  • infants and young children
  • pregnant women
  • people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune systems
  • people who take medicines that suppress the immune system; for example, some medicines for rheumatoid arthritis

Combating bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other contaminants in our food supply is a high priority for the Food and Drug Administration. But consumers have a role to play, too, especially when it comes to safe food handling practices in the home.

“The good news is that practicing four basic food safety measures can help prevent foodborne illness,” says Marjorie Davidson, a consumer educator at FDA.

In its Holiday Food Safety Success Kit, the Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends:

  • Whether it is cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165ºF. For optimum safety, cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is recommended.
  • Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven.
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using.
  • The turkey should be stuffed loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Any extra stuffing should be baked in a greased casserole dish.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers more information on stuffing safety at its Turkey Basics Web page.

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