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Don’t get sick from salmonella this holiday season

As the holiday season approaches, it's crucial to be mindful of food safety, particularly when it comes to preventing illnesses such as salmonella. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. To ensure a joyful and healthy holiday season, it's essential to adopt safe food handling practices and be vigilant about potential sources of contamination.

One of the common culprits for salmonella contamination is poultry, especially during the holiday season when turkey and chicken take center stage on festive tables. Proper handling and thorough cooking are key to reducing the risk of salmonella infection. When preparing poultry, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and other ingredients. Additionally, ensure that poultry is cooked to a safe internal temperature, usually 165°F (74°C).

Eggs are another potential source of salmonella, and they are often featured in holiday recipes. Whether you're making eggnog, or custards, or using raw eggs in other dishes, it's important to choose pasteurized eggs to minimize the risk of contamination. If a recipe calls for raw or undercooked eggs, consider using pasteurized egg products instead.

Fruits and vegetables can also be carriers of salmonella if not handled properly. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water, and use a brush for items with thicker skins. Even if you plan to peel the produce, washing beforehand helps prevent bacteria from transferring from the surface to the edible parts.

Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are generally safe if pasteurized. However, if you're using unpasteurized or raw milk products, be aware of the potential risks. Unpasteurized milk can harbor harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Opt for pasteurized dairy products to reduce the likelihood of contamination.

When it comes to holiday baking, be cautious with raw dough or batter containing eggs. Unbaked cookie dough or cake batter can contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Resist the temptation to taste the raw batter and ensure that everyone in the kitchen follows this precaution. Baked goods are a safer choice, as the cooking process kills bacteria.

In addition to being mindful of specific food items, general kitchen hygiene is crucial in preventing salmonella and other foodborne illnesses. Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, or eggs. Keep kitchen surfaces clean by sanitizing countertops, cutting boards, and utensils frequently. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.

If you're hosting a holiday gathering, consider the timing of food preparation. Leaving perishable items out at room temperature for extended periods can create an environment conducive to bacterial growth. Refrigerate leftovers promptly, and when reheating, ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.

Educating yourself and your guests about the importance of food safety is a proactive step in preventing salmonella infections. Encourage everyone to practice good hygiene and be cautious when handling and consuming food, especially during the holiday season when foodborne illnesses can put a damper on festivities.

By taking these precautions and staying informed about safe food handling practices, you can reduce the risk of falling ill from salmonella and ensure that your holiday season is filled with joy, good company, and delicious, safe-to-eat food. Remember, a little extra care in the kitchen goes a long way in safeguarding your health and the well-being of those you share your holiday meals with.

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