The winter holidays bring families and friends together for fun and food, but this time of year is also associated with an increased risk of food poisoning, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center warns. This Thanksgiving, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) encourages Americans to take a few simple precautions to prevent food poisoning and help ensure safe holiday meals.
“By being careful how you prepare and store food, you often can avoid offering food poisoning a seat at your table,” says Keith Boesen, PharmD, CSPI, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. “If you do suspect food poisoning, expert help is a quick, free call away at 1-800-222-1222.”
Symptoms of food poisoning usually appear within hours of eating contaminated food, and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhea. Food poisoning symptoms can last from a few hours to several days. Though most food poisoning cases are mild and resolve without medical care, some episodes are more severe and require expert treatment advice, Boesen says.
“Pregnant women, young children, and those with vulnerable immune systems should be especially cautious during the holiday season,” he warns.
AAPCC offers the following food safety tips for preparing and enjoying your holiday meals.
- Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in your grocery bags, in the refrigerator, and while prepping.
- Wash your hands, kitchen surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards frequently, especially after handling or preparing uncooked food and before touching or eating other foods. Wash produce but not eggs, meat, or poultry, which can spread harmful bacteria.
- Use the microwave, cold water, or the refrigerator method to defrost your frozen meat or poultry. Do not thaw or marinate these items on the counter, and be sure to cook them immediately after thawing.
- The bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest in the ‘Danger Zone,’ which is between 40˚ and 140˚ Fahrenheit. In general, it’s best to keep hot food hot, and cold food cold.
- Use a food thermometer to check if meat is fully cooked and heated high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Cook turkey until it reaches 165° F.
- The safest way to cook stuffing is outside of the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you choose to cook stuffing inside the turkey, stuff the turkey just before cooking, and use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Remove the stuffing immediately after the turkey is finished cooking and place in a separate serving dish.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly – within two hours – at 40° F or below to help reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
- Prevent cross-contamination by completely and securely covering foods in the refrigerator.
- Consume or freeze leftovers within three to four days.
Poison centers provide expert, free and confidential information and treatment advice 24-hours per day, seven days a week, year-round, including holidays. If you have any questions about safe food preparation, or if you or someone you know suspects food poisoning, call 1-800-222-1222. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center serves all of Arizona, answering calls from the public in 14 of the state’s 15 counties.
Photo Caption: Make sure your turkey cooks thoroughly – to an internal temperature of 165° F