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Don't Let Food Poisoning Ruin Your Holidays

November 25, 2008

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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Every season seems to have a wonderful association with food: Thanksgiving turkeys, holiday cookies, summer barbecues, just to name a few. You can probably come up with as many examples as I can. Unfortunately some of those wonderful dishes have a potential downside we all need to think about.

I'm Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services, here to talk to you about food-borne illnesses and food poisoning.

To prevent unsafe food from ruining my special occasions, I follow four simple steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

First, keep it clean. When handling food, wash your hands and any surfaces that food will come in contact with. Use warm, soapy water. Also, when you prepare food away from home, look for clean water to use for washing hands, food preparation and surface cleaning—or bring your own clean water and pack wet disposable wipes or antibacterial hand gel.

Keep it separated. Separate raw meats, poultry, or seafood from ready-to-eat foods. This will keep the raw food from cross-contaminating prepared foods. If you're packing a raw meat in a container, wrap the meat securely to keep the juices from dripping onto other foods, or pack the raw meat in a separate container from the ready-to-eat foods and drinks to reduce the chance of cross-contamination.

And cook it well. Make sure the food is cooked to a proper temperature by using a thermometer so that harmful bacteria will be killed. Don't partially cook the meat and poultry before heading out. If you do, some bacteria may contaminate the meat in ways that reheating will not cure. Instead, completely cook the meat at one time.

And lastly, chill it well. Refrigerate food promptly. Leaving food out can increase the chance of food-borne bacteria setting in. Leave marinating meat, thawing poultry or fish in the refrigerator. Also, keep perishable foods in a separate cooler from beverages— that will keep the perishable foods colder.

By following the four simple steps of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, you will decrease the chances of contracting food-borne illness and increase your enjoyment of special occasions.

For more information about food safety, please visit our website

Thanks for listening.

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