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A table setting of a Thanksgiving meal.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. –  It’s the holidays! This season of goodwill and giving thanks is also a festive celebration of food. With so many delightful foods to choose from, it’s important to keep holiday treats safe from bacteria.

Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension regional agent of food safety and quality, offers the following food safety tips to ensure a safe holiday feasting season for everyone.

The Invisible Enemy

When dealing with food, be aware of the risk of harmful bacteria. Sometimes, you can’t see, taste or smell bacteria, but it can be on food and multiply rapidly in moist, warm conditions. If consumed, harmful bacteria can cause foodborne illness. Those who are preparing food this holiday should frequently wash their hands to reduce the risk of bacteria. Also, remember to clean food, food preparation area and utensils. It is important to remove dirt and other debris from vegetables and fruit by washing them before use. Additionally, be sure to clean utensils with soap and water, especially after they touch raw meat.

Uncooked Eggs Could Be Harmful

Around the holidays, people eat a variety of foods, some of which may contain uncooked or lightly-cooked eggs. However, even grade A eggs with clean, uncracked shells can be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria. That’s why it’s important to cook eggs thoroughly to kill any bacteria that may be present.

When making cookies or any other types of batters, avoid licking the spoon or the mixing bowl if the batter contains uncooked eggs. Tasting cookie or cake batter can be tempting, but remember that bacteria could be lurking in the uncooked eggs and batter. If any of your holiday recipes call for uncooked or lightly-cooked eggs, you can modify them by cooking the eggs thoroughly.

Don’t Spread it Around

When making those delectable treats, avoid licking your finger. Finger licking allows salvia and bacteria from your mouth to be transferred to other foods you touch if hands are not washed properly in between.

Janet Johnson, an Alabama Extension regional agent of food safety and quality, offers a few tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
  • Use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water to sanitize surfaces and utensils.

More Information

For more information on food safety, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.

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