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Two rhodesian ridgeback puppies opening Christmas gifts.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Warning! Proceed to the holiday season with caution. With so many things going on, many forget about safety during the holidays. People may encounter a number of hazards in the coming days.

Food and Kitchen Safety

Whether it is cooking the ham or making sweet treats, food is a main part of the holidays. It is important to make sure all the food you prepare is safe.

Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension regional agent of food safety and quality, said there are a few simple things to remember when in the kitchen this holiday.

“Always rinse all fruits and vegetables before cooking and/or consuming them,” Hall said. “People should also avoid cross contamination by washing hands, surfaces and utensils between handling raw and ready to eat foods.”

Hall also offers the following food safety guidelines:

  • Cook all food to the correct temperature. Use a thermometer to make sure it’s done.
  • Never thaw meat on the counter. Meat should thaw in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each five pounds of meat.
  • Do not put hot food in the refrigerator to cool. Bacteria can grow on warm foods kept in the danger zone (between 41° and 135° Fahrenheit) for more than two hours. Putting hot foods in the refrigerator can warm the inside temperatures, exposing all other food to dangerous temperature levels.
  • Manage leftovers. Consume all leftovers within three to four days of preparation. People can freeze leftovers not used before this timeframe and consume them within a few months.

Also, it is wise to remember the children when cooking in the kitchen. Keep them away from hot stove tops, ovens and fryers. When it comes to food safety, it is also wise to keep all pets out of the kitchen when preparing food.

“Pets can carry bacteria that can easily contaminate food and food contact surfaces and their hair can also get into food others may be eating,” Hall said. “You never know when Fido may sneak a cookie from a platter that you may be taking to a gathering.”

New Toys

During the holidays, many children will wake their parents bright and early, excited to open and play with their new toys. Even with all the excitement, safety must be a priority. Certain toys can be harmful to both children and pets.

Marchale Burton, an Alabama Extension urban regional agent of family and child development, said keeping children safe is as simple as reading the instructions.

“One of the most common holiday hazards with toys is not reading the instructions,” Burton said. “Consumers must remember that all companies have their own specific directions and safety instructions.”


Soren Rodning, an Alabama Extension veterinarian and animal science specialist, said when it comes to pets, a common mistake people make during the holidays is assuming.

“People may assume a pet emergency will not occur and therefore they do not prepare for one,” Rodning said. “Whether it be eating something they are not supposed to or getting tangled in decorations, there are many safety risks for pets during the holidays.”

Rodning said do not let animals play with decorations, glass and plastic that can break and cut their mouth, and also make sure they do not eat unusual foods. Plants are also something people should be aware of. Many plants, such as lilies, poinsettias, mistletoe and holly, can be toxic to pets.

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