Food Safety: How to Feed Your Family Safely for the Holidays

From Halloween to New Years Day there is a lot of food to eat and a seasonal reason for every bright. Every year there are roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) who get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food. While Angels Medical is a great place to go when you’re worried about the side effects after cooking up a feast at home, there are also many ways to prevent food poisoning from ever affecting your holidays. Here is great crash course about avoiding contaminated food at home.

1. Maintaining Kitchen Hygiene 

Before food preparation, it’s always good to have clean surfaces, utensils, and the hands. Here are some specifics to watch out for:

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands before and after meal prep lessons the spread of dangerous pathogens throughout the kitchen

Washing hands is sometimes forgotten after interacting with pets, taking out the trash, changing a baby and other ways contaminants can find a way into our food, even if it’s just snacking on the couch, reading The Houston Chronicle at the end of a long day. 

Wash The Dishes 

Wash all dirty dishes, utensils, cookware, and surfaces before using them again. If the restaurant gives you dirty looking eating utensils or dishes, do not eat with those objects but ask for a different set. 


Using sponges is a great way to keep things clean as long as they are replaced every two weeks or more. Washing the sponge in the dishwasher with the dirty dishes (with a heat dry setting) will help keep bacteria from lingering on the sponge. Never use a sponge to clean up raw meat juices instead use disposable paper towels.

             Wash dishcloths every day with other laundry.

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are kitchen staples when it comes to preparation tools for a meal. They can also be harmful to use if not cleaned regularly.

No matter the material they are made of, it’s important to have a separate board for each raw meat, seafood, raw vegetables, and bread.

Wood and other natural material like bamboo, have a porous surface that can trap bacteria and other borne illnesses that can make us sick. Using them is still great if that is what you prefer just make sure to clean in often and avoid leaving food on them for long periods at a time.

Having a lot of cutting boards can be heavy and take a lot of storage room. Get a pack of flexible cutting mats. They are light, moldable and sometimes color-coded. It’s easier to keep track of which board is used for what, clean up and storage.

2. What is the difference between Cleaning and Washing Food?

In the fast and easy world we live in, the words cleaning and washing have come to mean the same thing. In actuality, there are many differences to remember when it comes to these two terms. 

Washing is done with hot soapy water, and is an essential step in keeping cookware and eating dishes and utensils safe by removing dirt, grime, and food followed by thoroughly rinsing off any soap left behind. 

Cleaning is similar to sanitizing. Don’t waste money on expensive cleaners and sanitizing products. Instead, use a bottle filled with water and bleach. Use 1 tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water, then use a small spray bottle for applying them wiping.

3. What Foods Should be Washed? 

Washing fruit and vegetables before eating is pretty commonplace. It’s especially critical with root vegetables because you want to scrub all the dirt off before prepping and/or cooking those items. Washing is an important step in keeping raw or will be cooked fruits and vegetables safe to eat.

The USDA firmly recommends against washing raw meat and poultry. It’s not going to kill the pathogens but will actually help spread them throughout the kitchen. Instead, cooking your raw meats to safe internal temperatures is the best way to kill any bacteria that might make you sick. 

Having a kitchen thermometer is a great tool to have. As you can check on cooked meats safety by internal temperature following this list:



Internal Temperature (°F)


Ground meat and meat mixtures

Beef, pork, veal, lamb



Ground Poultry

Turkey, chicken



Fresh beef, veal, lamb

Steaks, roasts, chops

145 Rest Time: 3 minutes



All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)



Pork and ham

Fresh pork, including fresh ham

145 Rest Time: 3 minutes


Precooked ham (to reheat)



Eggs and egg dishes




Egg dishes (such as frittata, quiche)

Cook until yolk and white are firm


Leftovers and casseroles

Leftovers and casseroles





Fish with fins


 Or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork


Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops

Cook until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque


Clams, oysters, mussels

Cook until shells open during cooking

(do not cook if shells are open before cooking)



Conclusion- Some Helpful Hints for Cooking Safety

  1. Thorough cooking destroys harmful pathogens, but meat can become contaminated again if it is not handled and stored properly 
  2. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children’s growth and development. But raw seafood can contain toxins such as mercury and other pathogens that can be destroyed only by cooking to the proper temperature.
  3. Fresh eggs must be handled carefully. To prevent food poisoning, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.
  4. Milk, cheese, and dairy products You can get very sick from raw milk and dairy products made with raw milk, including soft cheeses such as queso fresco and brie, as well as ice cream and yogurt. Make sure that milk has been pasteurized, a process that kills harmful pathogens. 
  5. Fresh produce can pick up harmful bacteria from many sources, from contaminated soil and water to a contaminated cutting board. Nuts, grains, beans, and other legumes and their by-products are found in a wide variety of foods. Since these foods are ingredients in so many food products.
  6. Raw flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. That’s why you should never taste raw dough or batter.
  7. Pet food can contain harmful bacteria or chemical toxins. If pet food is not handled properly, both pets and people could get sick. Keep infants and young children away from areas where you feed your pets, and never allow them to touch or eat pet food. 

And Finally, Are Leftovers Safe?

The good news about leftovers is that you know what you’re eating for lunch the next day, but according to the USDA, the longer foods stay sitting out, there is a greater risk of foodborne illness even after refrigeration. For best safety practices, if you need to keep food out, be sure to keep hot foods hot (140 degrees Fahrenheit or above) and cold foods cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below) as much as possible. Avoid keeping foods at temperatures in between those two guideposts for longer than two hours.

Houston is full of great places to eat and has many homegrown barbeque masters, mama’s secret recipes and, yes, kitchen nightmares. No matter what the situation take control of your food safety this holiday and avoid those food pathogens ready to ruin your meal.

Interested in how to protect yourself from food poisoning if you’re planning on going out on the town for a meal? Keep your eyes peeled for our next article coming soon to cover that topic specifically.