For people in the kitchen, this can be the least wonderful time of the year. The Illinois Poison Center says with people preparing meals that, for them, are out of the ordinary, the chances grow there could be trouble in the form of food-borne illness. Miguel Razo, a registered nurse who is a certified specialist in poison information, says the problems are undercooking food, leaving food out longer than it should be out, and cross-contamination.
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“Pork, poultry, fish will be your biggest concerns when it comes to cross-contamination,” he says. An example of cross-contamination can begin when you don’t keep your hands clean.
“Say you’re making burgers,” he says. “You have your hands in the ground beef and you touch onions or whatever else. Or you’re using a cutting board and you cut up some chicken, and you’re using the same cutting board, and you’re cutting something else, you can contaminate the other food that comes in contact with it.”
As you’re opening presents Christmas morning, you might want to think of Razo. He’s working that shift in the poison center's phone room – 800-222-1222
Top Ten list from Illinois Poison Center
Use a meat thermometer to confirm that meat, pork and poultry are properly cooked; visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/ for proper temperatures.
Keep preparation and storage areas, including countertops, stovetops and refrigerators, clean.
Wash hands with soap and warm running water for at least 15 seconds before preparing any foods, and especially after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
Wash utensils between each use. Never reuse utensils without washing them, because dirty utensils can be a source of contamination.
Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature. This may take several days for a large turkey.
Do not prepare food if you are sick or have any type of nose or eye infection.
Store raw food below cooked food in the refrigerator so it cannot drip onto and contaminate cooked food.
Use separate cutting boards for meats, poultry and fish.
To ensure that leftovers are safe the next day, properly seal and store food in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
If you are unsure about how long perishable food, particularly meat, poultry and dairy, have been left out, throw the items away to eliminate your risk of food poisoning.