Article by Indu Upadhyaya, Ph.D., Assistant Extension Educator, Food Safety
Holiday gatherings bring families and friends together, to spread more joy and happiness. While the merriment begins around Thanksgiving and continues until the New Years’, the food during holiday buffets, the party trays, the turkey, and other delicacies remain the main attraction of gathering. But be aware that a well-meaning and much anticipated get together can easily turn sour if the food is not safely prepared, served, or stored. Food safety should be diligently taken care of, especially during holidays, as in the delight of the season, negligence could cause serious health consequences.
Most people who get sick from eating contaminated food, might have mild illness and recover early, however susceptible population can see lasting effects or even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from contaminated food. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die due to foodborne diseases across the country. These data are out of reported cases, thereby not including cases of undocumented, non-reported stomach indigestions and/or mild diarrhea or vomiting. The real number of patients getting sick from foodborne illnesses is still an unknown and hard to predict.
What you CAN do this season is control food contamination at your own home and community. Start with these simple steps aligning with USDA holiday food safety guidelines.
Here are the 8 “always” of food safety to help everyone stay healthy during the holiday season:
- Always wash your hands
It’s a simple rule to follow, yet many easily forget in midst of festivities. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash hands:
- Before you start preparing food,
- After using the bathroom,
- Before serving food and eating,
- After you handle raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs.
- Always clean and sanitize:
Clean and sanitize any surfaces that have touched raw turkey, meat or fish and their juices and will later touch food such as kitchen counters, sinks, stoves, tabletops, etc.
Cleaning: with soap and hot water, and a paper or dish towel. Use these to remove any dirt and debris you can see.
Sanitizing: sanitize the surfaces to kill any remaining germs. Different food grade sanitizers or sanitizing wipes can be used. Allow to air dry and follow the label instructions on commercial sanitizers to determine whether you need to rinse food preparation areas after use.
Food borne bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, found in poultry products, can survive on countertops and other kitchen surfaces from 4 to up to 32 hours, so make sure you repeat this step after handling raw meats or turkey.
Don’t forget to clean and sanitize any areas that will encounter the turkey before and after cooking.
- Always Thaw the Frozen Meat/Turkey Safely:
Always follow USDA recommended thawing. There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.
- Refrigerator thaw: Turkey can be safely thawed in a refrigerator. Allow roughly 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey. After thawing, a turkey is safe in a refrigerator for one to two days, before cooking.
- Cold water thaw: The cold-water thawing method will thaw your turkey faster but needs to be done very carefully. When thawing in a cold-water bath, allow 30 minutes per pound and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook immediately after thawing.
- Microwave thaw: Smaller sized turkeys that fit in the microwave can be thawed using this method. Make sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the thawing process, bringing the food to the “Danger Zone.” (Between 40-140F).
It’s safe to cook a completely frozen turkey; however, it will take at least 50 percent longer to fully cook.
Remember to never thaw your turkey in hot water or leave it on a countertop.
- Always Separate food items to avoid cross contamination:
Cross-contamination is the spread of bacteria from raw meat and poultry onto ready-to-eat food, surfaces, and utensils. To avoid this, always use separate cutting boards — one for raw meat and poultry, and another for fruits and vegetables. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
USDA recommends not to wash your raw poultry due to the risk of splashing bacteria throughout your kitchen. It can easily lead to aerosolizing bacteria and cross contamination. As mentioned earlier, always clean and sanitize any surfaces that have touched raw turkey and its juices. That includes counters, sinks, stoves, tabletops, utensils, and plates. Sinks are the most contaminated areas of the kitchen, so keep them clean and don’t transfer any dirty items to clean spaces. It’s important to pay attention to your movements in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination.
- Always Cook Thoroughly:
Always follow a standard recipe to cook properly. Make sure your turkey is cooked to a safe final internal temperature of 165°F by using a reliable food thermometer. Check the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh. Cook your turkey at 325º F until its internal temperature reaches at least 165º F. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140º F or warmer.
When cooking a stuffed turkey, pay attention that the turkey, as well as the stuffing inside of it, reaches at least 165º F. Even if the turkey itself reaches 165º F, the stuffing inside may take longer. Its best to prepare your stuffing and turkey just before cooking. Using a cold stuffing makes it more difficult to reach the safe temperature of 165º F. Stuff the turkey loosely and use ¾ of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Use a moist stuffing rather than a dry stuffing because heat destroys bacteria better in a moist environment. To be on the safe side, cook stuffing separately.
If cooking other meats, cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. If you prefer, you may choose to cook the meat to a higher temperature.
For Ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
For baked goods, avoid eating foods containing raw eggs or uncooked flour, such as cookie dough or cake batter. It’s tempting to sneak a taste during preparation, but pathogens like Salmonella present in these ingredients can lead to food poisoning if not cooked first.
- Always follow the 2-hour rule:
All perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the stove or fridge, or one hour if the ambient air temperature is above 90°F. Never forget this 2-hour rule put forth by USDA. After two hours, perishable food will enter the “Danger Zone” (between 40 F and 140 F), which is where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause the food to become unsafe. Discard all foods that have been left out for more than two hours.
- Always Keep warm food warm and cold food cold
Remember the rule — keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Always transport hot foods by wrapping in dishes in insulated containers to keep their temperature above 140 F.
- Always transport cold foods in a cooler with ice or gel packs to keep them at or below 40 F.
When serving food to groups, maintain the temperature by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140 F and cold items should remain below 40 F. Temperature abuse of food is one of the main reasons for people falling sick very often. Always follow proper guidelines.
- Always store leftovers appropriately:
Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving leftovers. But they must be stored and refrigerated promptly to be safe to eat. After the turkey is served, immediately slice, and refrigerate on shallow platters. Store leftover food in shallow containers and refrigerate promptly. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Use gravy within one to two days. Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat up to four days in the refrigerator. In the freezer, leftovers are safely frozen indefinitely but will keep best quality from two to six months.
Always reheat all leftovers to 165°F, and check that temperature with a food thermometer. Cold foods should be kept at 41º F or less. And as they say, when in doubt, throw it out! Do not try to save potentially contaminated food.
Lastly, don’t prepare foods if you are sick or showing symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea or if you recently had such symptoms. Many foodborne illnesses are transmitted unknowingly by human error, by a food preparer who had these symptoms. If you are ill, let someone else do the cooking so you can have a safe and enjoyable meal with your family and friends.
References and additional resources:
This workshop is a sequence of five parts, divided into Session One and Session Two. Session One (Parts A and B) covers Micro Farm eligibility requirements and the application process. In Session Two (Parts C, D, and E), we’ll look at ways to refine your financial recordkeeping. We invite you to attend one or both sessions depending on your interests and needs.
Session 1: Micro Farm Insurance – What is This and Who is Eligible? Leave knowing whether Micro Farm insurance is applicable to your operation and what other risk management options are available if you are currently ineligible.(Part A)
Session 1: Micro Farm Insurance – Applying for Insurance and What You Need to Know Leave knowing how to apply for and benefit from Micro Farm insurance, and what financial records you will need. Understand how the insurance premium and coverage works, and how to work with an insurance agent and place a claim.(Part B)
Session 2: Refining Your Records Understanding Your Farm’s Financial Records (Part D) Preparing a Schedule F Tax Form (Part E) Steps for Improving Your Financial RecordkeepingRefine your financial recordkeeping to better manage your farm business and prepare you for the Micro Farm insurance program. (Part C)
Can’t attend but still could use the help? Check out these self-guided tools:
Check out The Carrot Project’s resources on USDA Micro Farm insurance and register for workshops here: https://thecarrotproject.salsalabs.org/microfarmworkshop20222023
¿Sabía que la Extensión de UConn ofrece programas y servicios en español?
Si tiene interés en la salud, nutrición, horticultura, manejo integrado de plagas, y el desarrollo personal y comunitario nuestros programas están disponibles para ayudarlo a aprender!
El Programa Ampliado de Educación en Alimentación y Nutrición (UConn EFNEP) ayuda a las familias a aprender sobre la alimentación saludable, compras económicas, y actividad física. UConn EFNEP se esfuerza en empoderar a los participantes y mejorar la salud de todos los miembros de la familia. Los educadores han publicado varias recetas en nuestro canal de Youtube. ¡Las recetas de EFNEP lo ayudarán a preparar comidas ricas, saludables y económicas para usted y su familia!
UConn Master Gardeners
El programa Master Gardeners ofrece entrenamiento en la horticultura. Master Gardeners busca participantes que estén listos para aprender y compartir sus conocimientos con la comunidad. El programa ofrece una clase en español sobre los conceptos fundamentales de los vegetales. Puede encontrar más información en el enlace debajo.
Programa de Manejo Integrado de Plagas
El programa de Manejo Integrado de Plagas educa a los productores y al público general sobre el uso prudente y seguro de pesticidas orgánicos, sintéticos y métodos alternativos de control de plagas. El programa incorpora todas las estrategias posibles de manejo de cultivos y de plagas a través de una toma de decisiones informadas, utilizando los recursos agrícolas y del paisaje más eficientes e integrando controles culturales y biológicos. Visite el enlace debajo para acceder a las publicaciones en español.
El programa UConn PEP es un programa de desarrollo personal, familiar y de liderazgo con un fuerte enfoque comunitario. PEP está diseñado para aprovechar las fortalezas únicas y las experiencias de vida de los participantes. También enfatiza la conexión entre la acción individual y comunitaria. El programa es conducido por un facilitador capacitado de la Extensión de UConn. Hay varias sesiones para el programa durante el año. Puede encontrar más información visitando la página web.
Our well-loved Ag-Mechanic Series is BAAAAACK!
With limited spaces, these trainings are meant to give you the basics on some of the common “mechanics” dilemmas you might face at your farm. As a friendly reminder, these trainings are meant for those that are farming or intend to farm for a profit. If you are interested in gaining skills in farming as a hobby, please reference this other great UConn program: https://homegarden.cahnr.uconn.edu/
To register for any of these trainings, visit: https://newfarms.uconn.edu/solidground/
Each class is $25 and includes a delicious lunch. Please contact us if cost is prohibitive and we will work with you to make this affordable
Attention Farmers: UConn Extension’s 2 farm worker training videos are available now in Spanish. These are to help you with training your Spanish speaking employees in produce safety practices. These resources will help make your employees follow proper food safety on farm and ensure a safe food production. The videos were made possible in collaboration with CT Department of Ag. For more information on produce safety, and FDA’s FSMA Produce Safety Rule please visit: https://foodsafety.uconn.edu/
- Spanish: Farm worker training: Harvest: – Capacitación de Trabajadores Agrícolas – Prácticas de Cosecha Segura https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ewwOpF68Yw&t=1s
English: Farm worker training: A Day in the life of a farm worker: Part l: Safehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXLx2FZyk-U&t=328s Harvesting Practices:
- Spanish: Farm worker training: Post-Harvest: – Capacitación de Trabajadores Agrícolas – Prácticas Seguras de Poscosecha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yQMyByMG1U&t=1s
English: Farm worker training: A Day in the life of a farm worker: Part II: Safehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjZ629VEPts&t=3s Post-harvest PracticesThe videos are also available on the food safety website along with a video on FSMA rule FAQs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uTxVY9b7EE.For more questions or queries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-786-8191.
OUR LAST FARMLAND MIXER for the foreseeable future is coming up on DEC. 4TH. So if you want to hear about some great land opportunities, talk about how to go about finding land, OR have some land you want to sell or lease yourself, then you should join us at our Farmland Mixer !
We already have some land opportunities already registered and are excited to share a preview below!
- 50+ acres in Franklin for lease at the Vineyard (where the event is located)- livestock, vegetables, flowers, small fruit, hay.
- up to 50 acres in Morris for lease- livestock, small fruit, orchard, hay
- 200 acres in Preston for lease, partnership, or sale – dairy, field crops, other
This FREE event will be happening at The Vineyard At Franklin on Sunday, December 4th. (931 RT-32 North Franklin, CT 06254)
There is an optional Field walk with Kip Kolesinskas from 12-1pm
Event proper will run from 1-3pm (with, of course, some great food and drink)
UConn EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program) answers this common question and more.
In its most basic form, sausage is minced meat with salt and other seasoning. It may or may not be stuffed into casings, can be made as a raw or cooked product and comes in all sizes and shapes. In many cultures there are strong cultural traditions around the manufacture and consumption of sausages. Sausage-making need not be a mystery; it is easily made in the home kitchen.
- What meat is used to make sausage? Any meat can be used to make sausage. Pork may be the most common source of meat for homemade products but beef, chicken, lamb, veal, duck and venison are also common.
- Do I need special equipment to make sausage? Not necessarily. The simplest approach is to buy ground pork and mix with salt and seasonings following a recipe. The one piece of equipment that is very beneficial is an accurate kitchen scale. If large quantities of meat are available to the consumer then a home meat grinder will be helpful. Preparing sausage in a casing requires a stuffing tube attachment for a grinder or a separate sausage stuffer.
- I am a hunter. Can game meat be used to make sausage? Yes, game meat is commonly used as a meat source for sausage. One important point is that the fat present on game meat tends to carry flavor that some folks find objectionable (i.e., gamey flavor). Fat is an important component of many sausages and prevents the meat from drying out when cooked. Game sausage benefits from the removal of natural fat with substitution of pork or beef fat (added to achieve 15% to 20% of total meat weight). Venison meat with added pork fat makes very good sausage.
- How do I know how much salt or seasoning to add? Similar to other prepared foods, sausage requires the use of a recipe which should be followed. Doubling the amount of a given spice because it’s a favorite can lead to inedible products! Recipes are commonly available online and in many cookbooks. An alternative approach is to purchase a commercially prepared seasoning blend for a given type of sausage. These are usually prepared for a specific quantity of meat but can be added proportionally to lesser meat amounts.
- Can I smoke my sausage? Some grills have smoker attachments and there is a large variety of meat smokers available for purchase. Smoke-cooking of meat requires some trial-and-error and a reliable meat thermometer is essential for a successful and safe outcome. Hardwood sawdust/chips are available and common sources for smoking sausages are hickory and apple.
- How do I store sausage once made? Sausage that will be consumed within 3 to 4 days can be kept refrigerated. Otherwise it is best to freeze the meat. In either case, it is very important to wrap the sausage in a manner that prevents moisture loss and minimizes transfer of air into the product space. Vacuum-packagers have become more common among consumers and help preserve quality of frozen products for longer periods of time.
Professor Emeritus, Animal Science
SNAP-Ed Food Security recently teamed up with United Way to offer a info session for Stamford campus students and Husky Harvest clients. Husky Harvest is the name for the new regional campus food pantry program. Food insecurity is rising on many college campuses and Husky Harvest strives to provide students with resources while minimizing the stigma associated with food pantries. Read more about Husky Harvest from UConn Today.