My local health department has published a nice article about how to stay safe from foodborne illnesses during the holidays.
The DuPage County Health Department recommends the following tips to keep you and your guests healthy:
- Keep everything in the kitchen clean. Wash counter tops and utensils with hot, soapy water between each step in food preparation. Bacteria from raw meat and poultry can get into other foods if they touch the same surfaces or each other.
- Wash hands often during food preparation and while serving. Most bacteria get into food through improper handling. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before handling food. Bacteria can linger in towels and wash cloths used repeatedly, so make sure to wash them frequently. Also, if someone has diarrhea or vomiting, they should not prepare or serve food for others as they may spread illness through food.
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Cooking food thoroughly kills most bacteria that cause food poisoning. Cook meat and poultry thoroughly and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Keep hot food at 140°F. Store and serve cold foods at or below 40°F. Do not leave food unrefrigerated longer than one hour at a time or the chances of dangerous bacterial growth increase. In other words, do not let potentially hazardous foods reach that intermediate temperature at which microorganisms grow best, between 40°F and 140°F.
If you or a family member develops nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or abdominal cramps, you could have food poisoning. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to two weeks after eating contaminated food. Most often, people get sick within four to 48 hours after eating contaminated food.
Some foodborne illnesses will resolve themselves without treatment.
However, if the symptoms are severe or if the person is very young, old, pregnant or already ill, call a doctor or go to a nearby hospital immediately. If groups of people from different households become sick with vomiting and diarrhea, contact your local health department.