Keeping Food Safe During the Holidays
Food is a big part of the holidays. Make that a huge part. A successful holiday gathering is dependent upon food being fresh, tasty and safe.
And in many homes, the gatherings are rather large. Parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins… you get the idea.
As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to fit everything that needs to stay cold in the refrigerator. Which is probably already pretty well stocked with day-to-day needs.
Having a portable, back-up fridge goes a long way to keeping holiday food fresh and – this is important – safe. I’ll have a recommendation for you in a moment.
Foodborne illnesses are common
The last thing you want during a holiday gathering is someone experiencing food poisoning.
Unfortunately, it happens far more often than we might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 76 million Americans become ill from foodborne illness annually.
We’re especially vulnerable to these foodborne illnesses during the holiday season because it’s also the cold and flu season.
And because table spreads frequently include more dishes than there is room for in a standard refrigerator.
Food safety tips
Several organizations offer suggestions for keeping food safe during the holidays, including the CDC. Here is a composite list of seven of those recommendations:
- Cook food thoroughly. Foods such as meat, chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs can carry germs. Make sure they’ve been cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Keep food out of the danger zone. Between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can grow rapidly. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within two hours.
- Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs, including eggnog and Caesar dressing. Harmful germs can live on the inside and outside of otherwise normal-looking eggs.
- Keep foods separated. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, seafood and eggs from leaking onto other foods by keeping them in sealed plastic bags or containers.
- Thaw your turkey safely. The two ways to do this are in the refrigerator and in a sink of cold water. If you’re using the latter method, change the water every 30 minutes.
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly. When you’re feeling as stuffed as the turkey, it’s tempting to lounge around the dinner table. But getting leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of preparation (not two hours of eating) is important to avoid bacterial growth.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before, during and after preparing food.
Keep that turkey frozen
What do experts say about how to keep food safe during the holidays? Let’s look at a few examples.
“Turkeys must be kept frozen until you are ready to start the thawing process. And this can be problematic due to the space in the freezer a turkey requires,” said Heidi McClean, a hospital dietician.
“When a turkey is in the danger zone of 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria that can cause foodborne illness can start to grow.
“It is important to wash your hands and all surfaces that have been in contact with the raw turkey or its juices.”
Avoid cross contamination
Carrie Masterson is a ServSafe certification course teacher with Penn State Extension. Here’s what she says.
“I’ve seen where turkeys have been stacked up in pyramids in those freezers and that really presents a risk factor because the ones on top are further away from the freezer. When you’re buying your turkey, it should be rock solid frozen.
“You want to make sure that when you’re preparing the raw turkey that you are very careful not to splash or spray any of the raw juices onto other foods or surfaces that other foods will come in contact with.
“It’s really best to prepare the ready-to-eat foods before you prepare any raw foods, to decrease the risk of cross contamination.”
Not a snowball’s chance in…
You may be asking, can’t I just keep extra food that won’t fit in my refrigerator in the snow to keep it cold?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that’s not a good idea. Their website says, “Frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays, even if the temperature is very cold.
“Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature… will not protect refrigerated and frozen food.”
Another issue is that snow could leak into a container of food. Or animals could find that food while foraging.
The ideal backup fridge
Earlier I mentioned the importance of having a back-up fridge to keep your holiday food fresh and safe.
My recommendation is the Freedom Fridge from 4Patriots. This thermoelectric food locker has a normal wall plug-in as well as a car converter. This allows you to keep your food safe, chill drinks and warm a dish … even protect your medication.
At less than 17 pounds, it’s very portable. And it’s equipped with easy-carry handles and rolls on two wheels.
It’s great or keeping food cold that doesn’t fit in your regular refrigerator during the holidays.
But it’s also an essential survival tool that could end up saving your lives. It’s a temperature-controlled survival trunk that gives you the freedom to chill, warm or preserve your food. Both at home and on the road.
The Freedom Fridge drops to temperatures as low as the freezing point and as high as 149 degrees Fahrenheit
And if that weren’t enough, you can use it to power your electronic devices. That’s because it features a USB outlet that is active whenever your food locker is running.