Christmas is just around the corner! Despite being confronted by the current pandemic, Filipinos will surely find ways to celebrate this momentous event one way or another; blame it to our deep-rooted love for Christmas (and other holiday events in general) that has been etched in our culture for so long. Celebrating won't do us harm anyway as long as we stay at home and follow safety protocols.
COVID-19 is undoubtedly the biggest holiday threat we have today. However, there is another unwanted guest that should remain barred and uninvited from our homes, specifically from our table during this holiday season: foodborne illness-causing microorganisms. These microorganisms (certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites) may be the last thing we want to worry about during our holiday preparation, but we definitely should not allow them to crash our home party and spoil the fun by making us or our family sick.
WHY IS HOLIDAY FOOD SAFETY IMPORTANT?
Foodborne illness can be a danger all year-round, but the holiday season brings particular risk for becoming sick from it due to food handling practices that some people do during holiday preparations. Common practices such as cooking larger batches of food, preparing several dishes at the same time, and/or leaving cooked food on the table for several hours among others can all directly or indirectly promote growth and spread of illness-causing microorganisms in food.
Most cases of foodborne illnesses are usually mild and only cause symptoms such as upset stomach and practically don't need hospitalization. However, in some instances, it can cause more severe symptoms, debilitating infections, or even death, especially among the at-risk population. Those at greater risk are infants, young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients). The good news is, foodborne illnesses are largely preventable. We can keep the illness-causing microorganisms at bay and stay worry-free by practicing food safety measures listed below.
HOLIDAY FOOD SAFETY TIPS
- Always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Thoroughly wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops ideally with hot soapy water before using them. Use disposable cloths or paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces wherever possible, and throw them away immediately after use. If you are using dishcloths, change it daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water before eating. Fresh produce with a hard rind or firm skin may be scrubbed with a produce brush.
- Do not wash raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood before cooking. Recent USDA research has found that washing or rinsing meat or poultry increases the risk for cross-contamination in the kitchen because the water used in washing could splash and spread to other foods, hands, clothes, work surfaces and cooking equipment. Besides, only thorough cooking destroys most of bacteria on meat, fish, and poultry, so washing is not really necessary.
Separate raw and cooked
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator.
- Have two cutting boards available at home: one to prepare raw meat and poultry, the other to prepare fresh produce like fruits and vegetables.
- Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, egg and seafood. Ideally, you should use a food thermometer to make sure these foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Bring foods like soups and stews to a boil to make sure that they have reached 70°C.
- Reheat leftover food thoroughly.
- Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.
Keep foods at a safe temperature
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Refrigerate leftovers or any food that should be refrigerated within two hours (preferably below 5 °C).
- Do not store leftover foods in the refrigerator for more than 3 days and never reheat leftover food more than once.
- Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.
Use safe water and raw materials
- Select food items that are fresh and wholesome when purchasing.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially if you plan to eat them raw. Cut away damaged or bruised areas of fruits or vegetables as bacteria can thrive in these areas.
- Always pay attention to the expiry date of packaged food items before using them. Do not use food items past their expiry date.
- NEVER USE food from cans that are leaking, bulging, or badly dented; cracked jars or jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening as they can contain the harmful bacteria that produces a toxin.
- We at Trinity hope that these reminders will help you and your family have a fun and safe Christmas celebration because we believe that no pandemic or foodborne illness should spoil this meaningful holiday season. And if you find this article helpful, please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends and colleagues.
- https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FS/FS26000.pdf -->