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County health department offers food safety tips for preparing holiday meals

Holiday meal

Centegra Health System and the McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) wants you to practice safe food handling during the holiday season. Keeping hot things hot and cold things cold can reduce your risk of a food-borne illness. Other safety tips include:

  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator (allow one day for each five pounds of weight plus an extra day or two). Don’t buy a fresh turkey too soon as fresh poultry should be kept in the refrigerator no more than two days before cooking.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after handling foods.
  • Clean all kitchen surfaces before you begin cooking.
  • Scrub cutting boards with hot soapy water after preparing food to avoid cross contamination.
  • Use a metal stemmed food thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature. Insert probe at the thickest part of the turkey. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria (165°F for turkey).
  • It is recommended that leftovers be refrigerated within two hours of serving time. Cool and store food in shallow pans to allow quicker cooling time.

Food-borne illness is preventable. If you suspect a food-borne illness, contact MCDH for investigation. Staff can be reached from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 815-334-4585. For after hour emergencies, call 815-344-7421. Visit www.foodsafety.gov for additional tips.