It’s Thanksgiving. But as we look forward to a delicious meal with all the trimmings, we should be aware of one important component — food safety.
Some people eat cookie dough and love traditional homemade eggnog, but it’s risky because raw eggs can be dangerous to consume. To be safe, bake your cookies and only drink pasteurized beverages.
Even if something is perfectly safe to eat, time is not on your side. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website there are guidelines in place that, if followed, should help keep your food safe to consume:
• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within two hours of cooking or purchasing.
• Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the countertop. It is safe to thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. But if you do thaw food in cold water or in the microwave, you should cook it immediately.
• Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
The prep for the big meal can be enjoyable if you like cooking but there are important guidelines to follow while making the meal as well:
• Wash hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, time to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, before and after handling food or handling pets. I don’t subscribe to the pet part and have lived to tell the tale but better to be safe than sorry.
• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter-tops with hot soapy water after preparing each dish, before working with the next food.
• Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. Dish cloths can pick up germs and bacteria and just spread them around.
• Washing produce. Rinse fruits and vegetables, and rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. I like using citrus- based veggie soap available at the grocery store, which gets produce clean as a whistle.
• Also wash the lids of canned foods because all the grime from the grocery store settles on it. How many times have you fished out the lid from the can after opening? Not good.
For more information, log on www.fsis.usda.gov and type in “food safety for older adults” in the fsis search bar.
Now, let’s talk turkey. When cooking the bird, insert a meat thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast, being careful not to touch the bone. The turkey is done when it reaches 180 degrees. The stuffing should be 165 degrees. Then serve your guests, and then put the turkey in the refrigerator.
And speaking of stuffing, if your personal recipe calls for oysters, make sure they have been properly refrigerated or iced, especially if you’re serving people with weakened immune systems or liver disorders, as they have an increased risk of becoming ill from improperly stored seafood. To be especially safe, cook the stuffing outside the bird.
Getting treats in the mail is exciting, but if you plan to send food, tell the recipient what you have ordered and when it will arrive. It may ruin the surprise but it’s better than risking spoilage. If your gift is perishable, it should be quite cold when it arrives, be unpacked immediately and refrigerated.
Cheese is another holiday treat that is nutritious and delicious but be careful of the soft ones, which are typically not processed, such as feta, brie, camembert, and blue-veined. Before you pile one of these on a cracker, check to see if it is cold. If not, opt for the cheddar.
Most of all have a great holiday season. And remember, chocolate is safe in all settings and temperatures.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free(800) 432-7812, or log on EAAA.org.