Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Food Safe at Home and When Traveling

make food safety a priority this holiday season

Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Food Safe at Home and When Traveling
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December 15, 2017

The most wonderful time of the year is here! Regardless of whether you're staying home for the holidays or traveling to visit family and friends—food will certainly be a part of the festivities.

The following tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will help you ensure that any food you prepare this holiday season won't be remembered for the wrong reason—food poisoning!

Holiday Food Safety 'To Do' List

Let's start with the four most important steps to food safety: CLEAN, SEPARATE, COOK, and CHILL.

Clean your hands for 20 seconds with soapy water. Always serve food on clean plates and avoid reusing plates that previously held raw meat and poultry.

Separate raw and cooked foods so you don't cross contaminate.

Cook using a food thermometer to make sure food reaches a safe minimum internal temperature.

Chill leftovers within two hours of cooking. Keep track of how long items have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything that has been out longer than two hours.

Safe Cooking Temperatures

During the holiday season, there are a wide variety of traditional dishes and family recipes that require specific preparations. When cooking these delicious party foods, make sure to cook them to the correct internal temperatures to destroy food poisoning bacteria.

  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality reasons, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.

Traveling with Food

If you are invited to a holiday party and plan to bring your famous holiday dish—or if you are traveling to visit relatives or friends—be sure to keep hot foods hot (140°F or above) by carrying them in insulated containers. If you're transporting cold food, keep it cold (40°F or below) by carrying it with cold sources such as ice or frozen gel packs.

The best way to ensure that food is being held at a safe temperature while you are traveling is to pack and use an appliance thermometer.

The FoodKeeper

For tech savvy holiday cooks, FSIS offers a smartphone and tablet app, the FoodKeeper, which provides quick access to information about safe food storage and preparation. A recent update to the app also integrated food product recall announcements. The FoodKeeper app is available in English and Spanish.

Find more information about safe food preparation and storage at