Keep Your Food Safe This Holiday Season

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Christmas Meal

Prepare and Store Food Safely to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is reminding people to follow safe food practices this holiday season. Whether you’re baking goodies for friends or cooking entrées for family, Dr. David Williams suggests these four safe food-handling tips:

  • Clean your hands, surfaces and equipment thoroughly with warm soapy water. Bacteria can get onto hands, cutting boards, knives, dishcloths, countertops and the food itself.
  • Separate meat, poultry and fish from ready-to-eat foods during storage and preparation to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Cook your food thoroughly, especially meat and poultry, such as turkey.
  • Chill your foods and leftovers to four degrees Celsius or lower within two hours of purchase or preparation, especially for high-risk foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.

dr-eric-hoskins“For many of us, family meals are a highlight of the holiday season. Four simple steps — clean, separate, cook and chill — will help ensure your holiday meals are prepared safely. Following these tips for safe food-handling will help ensure your holiday meals are remembered for the right reasons.” – Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Other ways to be food safe when entertaining during the holidays include:

  • If preparing food for a party, never defrost food on the kitchen counter before cooking.
  • Thaw meat safely in the fridge or under cold running water to avoid the growth of bacteria that can make you sick.
  • If hosting buffet style, use warming units or ice trays if the food will be out longer than two hours.
  • If taking food to a party, keep hot foods at 60 degrees Celsius or warmer, and cold foods  at four degrees Celsius or colder.
  • Read and follow the cooking instructions when cooking fresh or frozen breaded chicken. These products often looked cooked when they’re really not.

The majority of food poisoning cases occur at home and go unreported. If you experience signs or symptoms of food poisoning contact your doctor.

“The holidays are a time of year to enjoy memorable meals with family and friends. No one wants to ruin this special time with food poisoning, which happens when people eat food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites. Thousands of people in Ontario suffer from food poisoning due to improper food handling in their own homes every year. Small children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with existing health conditions are most at risk. It’s important to wash hands and surfaces, and eat foods that are properly washed, stored and cooked this holiday season.” – Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health

Quick Facts

  • Food poisoning can vary from minor to severe, with symptoms appearing from hours to weeks after eating contaminated food.
  • Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and stomach pain.
  • Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of suffering from serious cases of food poisoning, which can cause paralysis, double vision, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and even death.

Additional Resources

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