The end of the year is quickly approaching and for many, the winter holiday festivities are well underway. From parties to potlucks, delicious holiday treats can turn into trouble for family and friends if we’re not careful to follow key food safety tips. Whether transporting, preparing, or serving food this year, there are things we can all do to overcome holiday food safety challenges and prevent foodborne illness.

Food safety tips for the holidays

Here are seven food safety tips to help keep your holiday healthy, happy and illness-free:

  1. Wash hands. Wash your hands well and often with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching raw meat to avoid contamination.
  2. Keep raw food separate from cooked food. Don’t use a plate, cutting board or cooking utensil that touched raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless they have first been washed in hot, soapy water.
  3. Avoid raw eggs. Don’t take a risk by eating uncooked cookie dough that contains raw eggs. Instead, hold off for the delicious, cooked product, and ensure your little helpers do the same. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to use pasteurized eggs or liquid egg products or even powdered egg whites.
  4. Cook food thoroughly. A food thermometer is a great tool to help you ensure the holiday meat is cooked all the way through. A few dishes to remember: poultry like turkey, chicken or duck should generally reach an internal temperature of 165˚F while fish and red meats like veal, steak, pork, ham and lamb should reach 145˚F to be considered safe.
  5. Refrigerate and freeze food promptly. It can be hard to remember while a party is going on, but food should not be left out of the refrigerator or oven for more than two hours.
  6. Keep hot food hot. Hot food should be wrapped well, placed in an insulated container and kept at above 140˚F.
  7. Keep cold food cold. Foods like cheese, salads and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on a cold pack or ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice to keep them below 40˚F. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.