Merry Kitchen! - Safety Checkpoints to Ensure a Happy Holiday! - Part 1

Christmas is coming and so is the company! If you are hosting a holiday gathering, it is important that you make sure your kitchen passes the safety test! The last thing you want to happen is to pass a foodborne illness to a loved one because of a mistake in your kitchen! For the next couple of days, this series will be giving you several areas to check to make sure your kitchen is ready for the party!

According to the CDC, over 200 known diseases are transmitted through food Foodborne illness include viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions. Common symptoms of foodborne illness range from mild gastroenteritis to life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes. It is estimated that foodborne illnesses cause 6 million to 81 million illnesses and up to 9,000 deaths each year in the United States.

Safety Checkpoint #1

Use a Refrigerator & Freezer Thermometer to Keep Your Food Stored at a Safe Temperature

It is recommended that your refrigerator stays approximately 40 degrees F or low to slow bacterial growth and maintain quality of food.  Since freezing occurs at 32 degrees F, adjust the thermometer between 32 degrees and 40 degrees F to prevent unwanted freezing.  Ensuring that your refrigerator temperature stays at 40°F or colder is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of foodborne illness. You can purchase a “refrigerator/freezer thermometer” that range in price from $2 - $25 at most appliance stores or home centers.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness in your freezer, it is recommended that your freezer temperature remains at 0 degrees F or lower.  At this temperature, bacterial growth will be stopped. However, freezing does not kill most bacteria, nor does it stop flavor changes that occur over time. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0 degrees F, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer.

Safety Checkpoint #2

Defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter.

The best way to prepare for a large crowd is to make use of your freezer space.  When pulling out foods to thaw for your next party, always thaw foods in the refrigerator and never of the counter!  Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter for longer than 2 hours because, while the center of the food may remain frozen, the outer surface may enter the Danger Zone, The Danger Zone is temperatures between 40° and 140°F, in which bacteria multiply rapidly. If you’re on a time crunch, use the defrost setting on your microwave or place frozen meats under cold, running water.  In this case, the meat must be used immediately.