A happy holiday can quickly turn sour when food poisoning joins the party.
Experts at the Rutgers New Jersey Poison Control Center offer some tips on safely thawing, preparing and storing food, as well as avoiding alcohol and drug problems.
“Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster,” says Diane Calolo, executive and medical director of the Poison Control Center in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“Do not prepare food if you have any type of respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of getting sick. No matter how busy your kitchen is during the holidays, always remember the risks of handling food incorrectly,” she said in a Rutgers news release. .
Food poisoning is not a small problem. It sickens about 48 million Americans each year, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But here are some tips from the poison center on how to avoid it:
- Remember to clean, separate, cook and cool to start.
- Wash your hands and surfaces frequently with hot water and soap when preparing food.
- Use only water, not soap, to clean fruits and vegetables.
- Do not allow food served raw to come into contact with uncooked poultry, meat, or seafood while grocery shopping or in the refrigerator. Use a cutting board for produce and bread and a separate board for raw meat or seafood.
- Should your refrigerator be set below 40°F, a food thermometer can help you ensure that cooked foods reach a safe internal temperature.
- Frozen food should never be thawed on the counter, but instead kept in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave because bacteria, parasites, and viruses can grow rapidly at room temperature.
- Perishable food should be refrigerated within two hours.
The effects of food poisoning can be felt within hours and can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever. It is especially vulnerable to young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
It’s also important to understand how to drink safely and recognize alcohol poisoning, the poison center advises. Be aware of how much alcohol you’re actually consuming, not just the number of drinks to avoid drinking more than is safe.
Some holiday foods may also be unsafe for pets. These include chocolate, candy, bread and flour, fatty meat scraps, grapes, raisins and currants, sugar-free products and cocoa. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause serious illness, as can food-like items such as button batteries, small magnets, vapes and nicotine products, drugs and recreational and prescription drugs.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on food poisoning.
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