Health divisions provide holiday cooking safety tips


The Andover and North Andover health divisions would like to remind the community about best practices while cooking to prevent foodborne illness.

“We want to ensure that the community stays healthy during the holidays, and a large part of that is helping residents understand safe cooking practices,” said Andover Director of Public Health Thomas Carbone. “Make sure you are paying close attention to the safety tips provided and contact your doctor if you think you may have food poisoning.”

“People tend to cook more often and for more people during the holidays and we want to make sure everyone stays safe while doing so,” said North Andover Director of Public Health Brian LaGrasse. “Please consider the safety tips provided and make sure all food is cooked to the proper temperature.”

Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms, which can start anywhere from hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed. To ensure that all meals are prepared safely, residents are encouraged to follow tips outlined by the Food and Drug Administration:

Clean

• Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. Always wash food-contact surfaces — cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops, etc. — with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next item.

• Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

• Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking, as washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread.

Separate

• Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from foods that won’t be cooked.

• Consider using one cutting board for foods that will be cooked, such as raw meat, poultry and seafood, and another one for those that will not, such as raw fruits and vegetables.

• Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood or their juices.

Cook

• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature — 165 degrees Fahrenheit for a turkey. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

• Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.

• Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm.

• Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.

Chill

• Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods — and any type of food that should be refrigerated — within two hours.

• Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

• Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator.

• Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out.

• Leftovers should be used within three to four days.

For more information on food safety, visit the CDC’s website or contact the Andover Health Division at 978-623-8640 or the North Andover Department of Public Health at 978-688-9540.

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