Holiday Food Tips

With the holidays comes food, food, and more food. Unfortunately, with all the food and all the resulting leftovers the chances of food-borne illness increases. Following some basic safety guidelines will help to keep you and your family safe from food related illness  

At The Store

  • Pay Attention to "Sell By" and "Use By" dates.
  • Make sure frozen food is solid, refrigerated foods are cold and packages are not torn or punctured.
  • Place raw poultry, meet, or fish in separate bags before putting them in your cart to prevent leakage.
  • Pick up perishable foods last before checking out to help maintain temperature.

At Home

  • Put perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer first.
  • Place meat, fish, and poultry in separate plastic bags and on plates, to prevent leaks.
  • Use beef, deli meats, and poultry within a few days; use fish within one or two days.
  • Maintain refrigerator temperature at 35 to 40 degrees; keep the freezer at or below zero.

Food Preparation

  • DO NOT defrost meat, poultry or fish on a kitchen counter or in warm water.  Bacteria thrive between 40 and 140 degrees F.
  • Cook defrosted meats immediately.
  • Keep everything (hands, utensils, bowls, counters) that touches food clean.
  • Wash hands with warm soapy water before preparing any food and after handling raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Use separate platters, cutting boards, trays and utensils for cooked and uncooked meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Keep raw poultry, meat and fish juices from other foods


  • Cook ground meats thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degrees; use a thermometer to be sure.
  • DO NOT cook meats at below 300 degrees.
  • DO NOT use brown paper bags for roasting.
  • Cook stuffing for turkey or chicken separately, not in the cavity of the bird.
  • DO NOT interrupt cooking time and finish later.
  • Baste or brush sauces only on cooked meat.


  • DO NOT leave cooked meat or other perishable foods at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  • When serving buffet style, keep cold foods on ice.
  • DO NOT mix buffet foods by adding new foods to existing buffet items.
  • Use separate plates, platters or trays for holding raw and uncooked foods.
  • If using utensils for both raw and uncooked foods, wash them thoroughly in between uses with war, soapy water


  • Freeze or refrigerate leftovers immediately.
  • Leftover meat, fish, and poultry should be wrapped securely before refrigerating.
  • Eat leftover meat, fish, and poultry within three to four days and reheat to 165 degrees or until steaming hot.
  • Sauces and gravies should be reheated to a rolling boil for at least one minute before serving

For more information on holiday food safety please visit the CDC's food safety web page.