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Prevent Food Borne Illness This Holiday Season

Posted 12/14/2007

University Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) has released four new free publications online with ideas to keep you and your loved ones safe from food borne illness this holiday season. Cooking large quantities of food for friends and family makes it more difficult to properly prevent illness but the helpful tips explained in these publications will make it easier to keep your family safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million Americans will contract a food borne illness each year. Pregnant women, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems, and infants and young children are most susceptible to catch a form of this illness.

A food borne illness is caused by eating foods contaminated by harmful bacteria or viruses, or that have come into contact with bodily fluids containing harmful bacteria. Symptoms often include a stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea. Food borne illness is easily mistaken for the flu and other illnesses.

Prevention is the best way to fight food borne illnesses by following these basic food safety guidelines; Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.


  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling food, after going to the bathroom and after handling pets.
  • Wash all cooking utensils with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables in cold, clean running water and dry with disposable paper towels.


  • Use a separate cutting board for raw meat.
  • Place cooked food on a clean plate.


  • Use a food thermometer to ensure food is properly cooked.
  • Rotate dishes in microwave oven to prevent cold spots in food, and use a food thermometer to check internal temperature.
  • Always reheat leftovers to 165°F and bring sauces, soup and gravy to a boil.


  • Never thaw food at room temperature.
  • Cold foods should be eaten within two hours.
  • Leftovers should be properly refrigerated or frozen within two hours of serving.
  • Don't leave foods out to cool before refrigerating.

To further prevent food borne illnesses this holiday season, follow proper cooking guidelines for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Along with the basic food preparation rules it is necessary to know the safe cooking temperatures and proper storage methods for all food items. View the new Food Safety for Adult and Child Caregivers and Safety When Preparing the Holiday Meal publications on UNCE website for these guidelines and to read further food safety tips.

For more information on food safety, contact your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Stanley T. Omaye is a nutrition specialist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

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