7 Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

Mary Jane Detroyer


Food safety is probably the last thing you’re thinking about during the holidays. Most of my clients are focused on the scale and trying to decide how many pieces of Aunt Margaret’s homemade fudge are too many pieces of Aunt Margaret’s fudge.

That said, food safety is a big deal during the holidays, especially for children. Not only are children with allergies at risk (nuts and seeds abound in holiday foods), but the holidays are a time where the risk of food poisoning and choking heightens. Children’s immune systems are still developing, so they don’t have the tools to fend off infections like adults. Food poisoning usually comes with diarrhea which comes with dehydration and can be fatal.

Most of these problems can be avoided. Here are 7 easy-to-follow food safety tips to keep your holidays merry!

  • Mary Jane DetroyerCSCC: C
    lean, Separate, Cook and Chill. These four basic steps promoted by the FDA will save you from most holiday food poisoning. Clean your hands and surfaces often. Separate raw meat, eggs, fish, and poultry from all other products, even in your shopping cart. Cook your foods for the required time at the right temperature, especially turkeys and hams. Chill and refrigerate your foods promptly.
  • Ready to cook foods aren’t ready-to-eat. Make sure you read the directions on ready-to-cook foods like cookie doughs and breads. Eating them raw can make you sick.
  • Turkey Problems can be avoided. Take the guesswork out of whether your turkey is ready with these tips from the CDC. Everything from thawing to handling and cooking the turkey need to be taken care of well.
  • Mary Jane DetroyerLeftovers! Everybody loves leftover turkey and ham sandwiches. But they account for most food poisoning cases. Within two hours of serving your food, refrigerate your leftovers at 40 degrees or colder. Take the turkey off the bone and separate the meat from the bones. (The latter is great for making soup or stock). Put the bones in the freezer or fridge. And divide the meat into family-sized portions, keeping one in the fridge, the rest in the freezer.
  • Cooking ahead of time? This is a smart way to be able to spend more time with guests and less time in the kitchen. That said, not all frozen foods last the same.  When you prepare and freeze meals, cakes, pies, cookies and breads, make sure you package them in air-tight containers and date them. This chart will let you know how long these frozen foods can last and remain safe to eat.
  • Giving food gifts is a timetreasured tradition. Having children who live with allergies makes all food gifts off limits. So, start a tradition by including ingredient lists in your food gifts. When going to a party, bring your own safe food, so your child has something to eat. When you call to confirm assistance, let the host know about your child’s allergy problems to save you from explaining why you’re bringing your own food to the party and also educating the host about the gravity of the allergy. Some don’t realize that even by touching foods, you can contaminate and put kids at risk. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has in-depth tips to help you navigate the holidays safely.
  • Bite-sized bites can be choking bites. Finger foods are the perfect choking-sized foods for most toddlers. Peanuts and popcorn are big choking hazards. Keep these tasty bites out-of-reach. Serve your child their plate of food and cut things kid-size. Also, in the chaos of the holiday party, make sure kids sit and eat.

The holidays should be a time to be healthy, share in family traditions, enjoy the flavors and customs each home, culture, religion or family has to offer. By taking these easy precautions, you will be saving yourself from doctor’s visits, ER visits or worse.

Be safe! Eat well! Enjoy!