Take care when preparing your holiday feast

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 24, 2015

During the holidays, families and friends reunite for laughter, storytelling and feasting on homemade dishes made with love and skill.
The Mississippi State Department of Health would like to remind people to ensure the food served is handled properly, so as to deter the risk of food-borne illness.
The centerpiece of most holiday meals is usually a turkey, roast and, in some homes, fish.
According to the MSDH’s website, the turkey must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A roast, pork and fish must be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and ground beef to at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating, the website states.
Another tip offered by the health department involved cross-contamination. Make sure to cool foods properly and do not place cooked food on a surface that held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
No Christmas meal would be complete without the dressing, which the MSDH website suggests be cooked separate from the turkey. After both are dishes are prepared, if the cook so chooses, the dressing can be placed in the turkey.
Prior to and after handling food, people should wash their hands with hot, soapy water, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets, the MSDH website states.
Along with proper hand washing, surfaces where food is prepared must be washed including used dishes, utensils, cutting boards and counter tops, the website states.
No matter the size of a family or meal, there are almost always leftovers.
The MSDH’s website suggests refrigerating or freezing perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours or sooner. Food should not be defrosted at room temperature but rather thawed in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave. Leftovers should be divided into small, shallow containers for rapid cooling. Take care not to over-pack the refrigerator so that cool air can circulate, the MSDH website states.

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