CDPHE highlights food safety tips to protect Coloradans during the holidays

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REMOTE (Nov. 20, 2023): The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reminding Coloradans of food safety practices that can help families prevent common foodborne risks to help keep holiday festivities on a roll.

“Always remember to cook food at safe temperatures, adequately wash your hands, and make sure to put it in the fridge once you’re done,” said Troy Huffman, CDPHE’s retail food program coordinator. “Following these simple food safety guidelines will help make sure Coloradans enjoy safe and healthy meals this holiday season.”

Don’t wing it! Here are some basic tips:

Put leftovers in the fridge: Refrigerate all leftovers at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower as soon as possible after cooking. Do not leave foods containing meat, dairy, eggs, fish, or poultry at room temperature. This includes casseroles and pumpkin or other custard pies that are popular during the holidays.

Wash hands: Wash your hands with soap and water periodically while preparing food, especially after handling raw meat, eggs, fish, or poultry.

Don’t cross-contaminate: Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and countertops. Minimize cross-contamination risks by thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing knives, cutting boards, and other utensils, particularly between preparing raw meat and foods that will not be further cooked. Using a commercially prepared sanitizing wipe is an easy and quick cleaning alternative to help minimize cross-contamination.

Check cooking temperatures: Get a cooking thermometer, and use it properly. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, and don’t let it touch bone, fat, or gristle. Cook turkey and stuffing separately to an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit and ham at 145 Fahrenheit before serving. Recipes with eggs must be cooked thoroughly to 155 Fahrenheit or above.

Thaw foods properly: Plan enough time to thaw food in the refrigerator, placing thawing items on a tray or on the very bottom of the refrigerator to catch any juices that may leak from the packaging to avoid cross-contamination with other foods.

The number of days a frozen turkey takes to thaw in a refrigerator depends on the size. A turkey 4-12 pounds takes one to three days to thaw, 12-16 pounds takes three to four days, 16-20 pounds takes four to five days, and 20-24 pounds takes five to six days.

If you’re sick, don’t cook: When you’re not feeling well, do not prepare or handle foods.

For more information and resources, visit the Food and Drug Administration's Safe Food Handling webpage, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Basic webpage, or Colorado State University Extension’s Food Smart Colorado webpage.