Holiday Food Safety

Food is an important part of many holiday celebrations

Food is an important part of many holiday celebrations. You can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness for your family and friends during the holiday season by following some basic food safety tips.

Background

Foodborne illness (“food poisoning”) is caused by eating food contaminated with certain bacteria, viruses or parasites. Examples of disease-causing organisms include Salmonella E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes . These bacteria are sometimes found in or on the following:

  • raw and undercooked meat, poultry , fish and their juices
  • the surfaces of and/or in the juices of raw fruits and vegetables
  • unpasteurized (raw) milk and (raw) milk products, like raw milk, soft and semi-soft cheeses
  • raw and lightly cooked eggs
  • uncooked flour and uncooked products made with flour, like dough

Since these foods are often part of the menu at many holiday meals and parties (e.g., cheese, fruit and vegetable platters, seafood, turkey, tourtière, baked goods, eggnog and cider), it is a good idea to take extra care when preparing, cooking, serving and storing food during the holiday season.

Health Effects

The most common symptoms of food poisoning are stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

Most people recover completely from foodborne illness, but some groups are at greater risk of serious health effects, like kidney problems and even death. The groups at greater risk are young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Minimizing Your Risks

General Food Safety Tips

There are four basic steps you should always follow to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness :

Clean : Wash hands, contact surfaces (like kitchen counters) and utensils often to avoid the spread of bacteria.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or touching pets.
  • Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables with clean, running water that is safe to drink.

Separate : Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Ideally, use two cutting boards, one for raw meat, poultry and seafood, and one for washed fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food, unless it has been washed with soap and warm water.

Cook : Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking foods to the proper internal temperature.

  • Use an instant-read digital thermometer and cook to these temperatures:
    • 180°F for whole poultry
    • 165°F for stuffing, casseroles, leftovers, egg dishes, ground turkey and ground chicken, including sausages containing poultry meat
    • 160°F for pork chops, ribs and roasts, and for ground beef, ground pork and ground veal, including sausages
    • at least 145°F for all whole muscle beef and veal cuts, like steaks and roasts

    When you think the food is almost ready, remove it from the heat source and insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Keep cooking if the proper temperature has not been reached.

  • Be sure to wash the thermometer or any utensils that are used on raw or partially cooked foods in between temperature checks.
  • Eat hot foods while they are still hot.

Chill : Keep cold foods cold. Bacteria can grow rapidly when food is allowed to sit in the so-called danger zone: between 40°F and 140°F.

  • Eat cold foods while they are still cold.
  • Remove bones from large pieces of meat or poultry and divide them into smaller portions before storing.
  • Throw out perishable food that has been allowed to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. You cannot tell whether food is contaminated with surface bacteria by the way it looks, smells or tastes. When in doubt, throw it out!

Additional Food Safety Tips for Holiday Situations

Baked goods

Raw eggs can contain Salmonella bacteria, so you should not eat uncooked cookie dough, batters or frostings made with raw fresh eggs. Remember, young children are at greater risk for foodborne illness, so they should not be allowed to “lick the spoon” if the dough, batter or frosting contains any raw egg ingredients. Make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly.

Uncooked flour can also make you sick if it is contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Do not taste raw dough, raw batter, or any other food product containing uncooked flour. Learn how to safely cook and handle raw flour to avoid the risk of food poisoning.

Eggnog

Store-bought eggnog is pasteurized and does not require heating to kill harmful bacteria. If you are making eggnog at home, you should:

  • use pasteurized egg and milk ingredients, which are available at many grocery stores, or
  • heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 160°F and then refrigerate in small amounts using shallow containers so it will cool quickly

Fruit juices and ciders

If you are making drinks with fresh fruit juices or cider, check the label to see if the product has been pasteurized. If the juice or cider is not pasteurized or if you are uncertain, you can minimize risks by boiling the product to make sure it is safe for everyone.

Oysters and seafood

Some people enjoy certain raw seafood items, like oysters and sushi during their holiday festivities. However, raw seafood may carry bacteria, parasites or viruses that can cause food poisoning. People who are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness, such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems, should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.

Stuffing

Cook stuffing separately in the oven in its own dish, or on the stove top, to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF. If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff it loosely just before roasting, and remove all stuffing right after cooking.

Foods stored in oil

Home-prepared products in oil, like herbs, garlic or peppers, are popular as gift items during the holiday season. However, for foods like this to be safe and healthy, they must be prepared and stored properly.

  • If home-prepared products in oil are made using fresh ingredients (e.g., fresh herbs, peppers, garlic, etc.), the products should be:
    • refrigerated immediately after being made
    • discarded if stored for more than one week
  • However, if all ingredients added to the oil are dehydrated (e.g., dried herbs and spices), the product can be stored safely at room temperature.
  • If you receive a home-prepared gift like this and are not able to find out when and how it was made and stored, it is safer to throw the product out.

For commercially-prepared foods stored in oil, check the label. If the list of ingredients includes salt and/or acids, these products have been preserved and do not present a risk of food poisoning, as long as you follow directions for storage (e.g., refrigerate after opening and between each use).

Holiday buffets

If you are serving food buffet-style, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots to keep hot foods hot. Keep cold foods cold by putting serving trays on crushed ice. If food remains at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it away .

Also, do not add new food to serving dishes that are already in use. Instead, use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet.

Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods like cut vegetables, candies, chips, nachos and nuts should have serving tools to prevent contamination between guests.

Traveling with food

As always, keep hot foods hot (at or above 140°F) and cold foods cold (at or below 40°F). Transport hot food in insulated containers with hot packs or wrapped in foil and heavy towels. Transport cold food in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.

Leftovers

  • Refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Refrigerate once steaming stops and leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigerator temperature.
  • Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within two to three days or freeze right away for later use.
  • Avoid overstocking the refrigerator, so that cool air can circulate effectively.
  • Reheat solid leftovers, such as turkey and potatoes, to at least 165°F. Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir a few times while reheating.

 Government of Canada

The Brain and Youth Sports – Well Wisconsin Radio

Well Wisconsin Radio – Monthly expert interviews on various health topics with professionals around the state. 

The Brain and Youth Sports 

Join your host, Morgan Meinen as she talks with Julie Stamm , Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Julie and Morgan will discuss the science behind repetitive brain trauma in sports, common misconceptions, and how parents can make informed decisions about sports to protect their children. We hope you’ll tune in!

  • Tuesday, August 24, 2021
  • Noon – 12:30 PM

REGISTER HERE

Episodes available on demand after the event!  Click here to access the Well Wisconsin Radio channel.

Just a reminder, participants would need to listen to two Well Wisconsin Radio shows in order to get credit for the Well-Being Activity. You do not have to listen to the program live in order to get credit – you can listen to the recorded program on the Well Wisconsin portal. 

Sustainable Fishing in Wisconsin – Well Wisconsin Radio

Well Wisconsin Radio – Monthly expert interviews on various health topics with professionals around the state.

Sustainable Fishing in Wisconsin

Join your host, Morgan Meinen as she talks with Sharon Moen, Eat Wisconsin Fish Outreach Specialist for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant.  Sharon and Morgan will discuss why some fish choices are more sustainable than others, the health benefits of eating fish, contaminants, fish recipes and more!  We hope you’ll tune in!

  • Tuesday, July 27, 2021
  • Noon – 12:30 PM

REGISTER HERE

Episodes available on demand after the event!  Click here to access the Well Wisconsin Radio channel.

Just a reminder, participants would need to listen to two Well Wisconsin Radio shows in order to get credit for the Well-Being Activity. You do not have to listen to the program live in order to get credit – you can listen to the recorded program on the Well Wisconsin portal. 

July Well Wisconsin Challenge – Summer Bucket List

Fill your bucket this summer by doing things that feel good to you! Our Summer Bucket List Challenge has some great ideas or create your own. Set a goal and then get to fillin’ your bucket!

Track your fun for 30 days by checking 10 days off your bucket list. Click here for the form. Email your completed form to wellness@uwgb.edu.  

Treat yo’ self!

Self-care

  • Stargaze—contemplate just how amazing life is
  • Use PTO to leave work early to do your own thing!
  • Enjoy a book or magazine at your favorite cafe
  • Tap in to your artistic side with sidewalk chalk
  • Take a nap or read in the warm shade
  • Say “no” to something that feels stressful
  • Say “yes!” to something fun and indulgent
  • Relax in the bath, pool, hot tub, lake—you choose
  • Sit outside, close your eyes, and just listen

I like to move it, move it!

Active living

  • Dance to music that moves you
  • Beat the heat—get up for an early morning walk/run
  • Start your day with yoga in the sunshine
  • Walk to do an errand or get a summer treat
  • Try a NEW activity—geocaching, paddle boarding, etc.
  • Grab a friend and go for a bike ride
  • Work in your garden or yard
  • Hand wash your car
  • Go for a hike and have a picnic

Get ‘er done!

Goals, productivity, professional development

  • Get rid of 25 items from your house
  • Organize a space—don’t forget before and after photos
  • Set one professional or personal goal for the summer
  • Don’t check work email when you are on vacation
  • Make an emergency/natural disaster plan with family
  • Aim for a no-waste week—reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Listen to a professional/personal development podcast
  • Read an article that will help you toward a goal
  • Plan a fall/winter vacation

Sunday—fun day!

Weekend ideas with friends and family

  • Go camping
  • Visit a museum—pose like an exhibit (pictures!)
  • Catch a summer blockbuster to escape the heat
  • Have fun with animals—zoo, aquarium, or your pet
  • Go to an outdoor concert, festival, fair or sports game
  • Try an outdoor ropes course or ziplining
  • Go to brunch or have a picnic in the park
  • Visit a pool, river, lake, or coast for a water adventure
  • Tour your local town or a new city you want to see

For the love of full bellies!

Food and drink

  • Make a healthy, cool summer treat—share the recipe!
  • Organize a progressive dinner with some neighbors
  • Enjoy a treat from an ice-cream truck
  • Make real homemade lemonade (no powdered stuff!)
  • Eat your favorite summer produce—savor every bite
  • Have a BBQ and snap a photo of the grill master
  • Try a cold summer soup recipe
  • Make fruit popsicles
  • Pick up fruits and veggies from a farmers’ market

You do you!

Create your own list

  • ______________
  • ______________
  • ______________
  • ______________
  • ______________

Fall Food Challenge Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Fall Food Challenge!  Almost 30 fall recipes were submitted.

Melissa Betke put together an eCookbook of all the recipes, which you can view by clicking here.

We had a random drawing for each week of the challenge, and here are the winners:

  • October 25 – 31 (Winter Squash recipe): Roshelle Amundson
  • November 1 – 7 (Root Vegetable recipe): Barb Tomashek-Ditter
  • November 8 – 14 (Cole Crop recipe): Denise Baeten
  • November 15 – 21 (The Trusty Spud recipe): Crystal Williams
  • November 22 – 28 (Thanksgiving Dish Makeover recipe): Laura Nolan

We also had a final drawing of all the entries, and Teri Ternes was picked.  Each participant will receive a UWGB cutting board, and the above winners will receive a kitchen/cooking item as well!  The participation incentives were paid for with wellness grant funds from the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).

Thank you to Wellness Committee members Sherry Warren and Melissa Betke for their work on this challenge!

Cauliflower Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables Recipes

Cauliflower Stuffing
from Crystal Williams

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower cut into small flowerets
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. celery, sliced
  • 3 cups mushrooms (optional; I used 1/2 this much)
  • 1/4 c. pecans, roughly chopped (toast 5 minutes)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme salt pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Drizzle cauliflower with avocado oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, add the ghee and cook sausage.
  4. Remove from pan with slotted spoon to separate dish.
  5. Add onions to pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until lightly caramelized.
  6. Add celery and cook to soften, then add garlic, cook a minute more. (Add more ghee if needed)
  7. Add herbs, add the sausage and roasted cauliflower to the pan. Toss together to heat through.
  8. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Note from Crystal: I thought it tasted pretty good but it didn’t sing the praises of my daughter making the original recipe. With the leftovers, I made it into soup.

 

Roasted Vegetables with Acorn Squash
from Sara Chaloupka

Ingredients:
  • Variety of vegetables – we used red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, carrots, bell pepper, and acorn squash (peeled)
  • Olive oil
  • Favorite spices and seasonings
Instructions:
  1. Cut up all produce into bite size pieces.
  2. Drizzles spices with oil and seasonings.
  3. Roast in oven.
Note from Sara: I roast vegetables often, but never thought to roast squash until this week. I did not see this ‘Fall Food Challenge’ until today, so unfortunately I did not get a picture of it. I can tell you that it was delicious though!