Keep foodborne illness off the holiday menu

(NC) -- There's no better way to ruin a holiday gathering than with a foodborne illness outbreak, and although this happens to thousands of Ontarians each year, following a few simple steps can reduce the risk for your family and guests:

Dr. Robin Williams, acting Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario, tells us that food safety should be considered during the entire meal preparation process, from shopping to serving. Dr. Williams recommends the following five cautionary steps:

1. Shopping: buy cold food last and get it home fast. Take food straight home to the refrigerator – never leave it in a hot car.

2. Storing: refrigerate and ensure your refrigerator's temperature is at 4°C (40°F) or below. Freeze fresh meat, poultry or fish immediately if you cannot use it within a few days and make sure your freezer's temperature is at -18°C (0°F) or below.

3. Preparing: thaw food safely in the refrigerator or under cold running water – never on the kitchen counter. Make sure to wash your hands in warm soapy water before preparing food and wash kitchen towels, sponges and cloths daily. To reduce cross-contamination, keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food and always wash thoroughly utensils that have touched raw chicken or meat before using them on other foods. Keep separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables.

4. Cooking: cook your food thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. You are at a higher risk of foodborne illness when you eat meat, poultry or fish that's raw or only partially cooked. When you cook ahead, divide large portions into small, shallow containers for refrigeration to ensure safe, rapid cooling.

5. Serving: never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours and use clean dishes and utensils to serve food. And remember, keep the hot stuff hot, and the cold stuff cold.

For additional tips on holiday food safety, visit


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