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Don’t Let Food Poisoning Ruin Your Holiday

When cooking meat, use a food thermometer to ensure it reaches a safe minimum internal temperature: 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork (including fresh ham); 160 degrees for ground beef, pork, veal and lamb; and 165 degrees for poultry and reheated precooked ham. Once it’s time to serve, don’t leave perishable food at room temperature for more than two hours.

It can be fun (though often counterproductive) for kids to help in the kitchen, but for everyone’s sake, take time to teach good food safety practices. Most important, anyone helping with food prep needs to wash their hands before beginning and between tasks. Teach children to lather with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, and make it fun by singing “Happy Birthday” or “Jingle Bells,” Msora-Kasago recommended.

Cleaning your work space as you go — wiping up spilled flour or raw egg on the countertop, for example — is a good practice to model for and teach kids. “Number one, the kitchen stays clean. But also number two, it reduces the chance of food getting contaminated in the process,” Msora-Kasago said. “I think instilling the habits we want to see from a very young age is important,” she added.

Contaminated flour poses a unique risk because it has a long shelf-life. And since many people dump it into a storage canister and throw away the bag, they may not know if their flour is part of a given outbreak, Dr. Chapman said. If there’s a flour recall and you’re not sure if your bag is affected, toss it; it’s not worth the risk. And before you add new flour to a storage container with a little left over from a previous bag, wash the container with warm, soapy water to eliminate any potential lingering pathogens.

Food-borne illness outbreaks are common, and the sources can be diverse. In the past year alone, major outbreaks have been caused by romaine lettuce, ground beef, basil, papaya, melon, tahini and tuna. Keeping a close eye on food recall notices or outbreak notifications from the F.D.A. or C.D.C. is the best way to keep you and your family safe. Sign up to receive F.D.A. email alerts here.


Alice Callahan is a health and science journalist, the author of “The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year,” and a mother of two.

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