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Making food safety a priority in the holidays
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SAVANNAH — The holidays are here and that means lots of family gatherings around the dinner table. But beware of unwanted guests that can turn your holiday celebration into a sour affair. The Coastal Health District encourages residents in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties to do all they can to prevent foodborne illnesses this holiday season and all year long.

Foodborne disease is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages and approximately 76 million cases of foodborne disease are reported each year in the U.S. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea and in certain populations, including children and older adults, the illness can be life threatening.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages practicing the following four basic food safety measures to help prevent foodborne illness:

• Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

• Wash food contact services with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.

• Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

• Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops.

• Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices away from foods that won't be cooked while shopping in the store, and while preparing and storing at home.

• Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (raw meat, poultry and seafood) and another one only for ready-to-eat foods (such as raw fruits and vegetables).

• Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate that has held raw meat.

• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165 degrees. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165 degrees Make sure oysters in oyster dressing are thoroughly cooked.

• Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.

• Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products or powdered egg whites.

• Don't eat uncooked cookie dough.

• Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods within two hours.

• Set your refrigerator no higher than 40 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.

• Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave.

For more information on food safety, go to or