Seasonal Food Safety

Food sImage of a festive meal with meat, pie and other dishes on tableafety tips for the holidays

Don't let foodborne illness mess up your holiday plans. Keep yourself and your loved ones healthy by following the 8 simple steps below. 

  1. Wash your hands

    Use soap and warm water and scrub for 20 seconds. Do not prepare foods if you are feeling ill, no matter how clean your hands are.
  2. Keep foods separated. 

    Meat juices and eggs can spread onto other foods that might not be cooked to proper temperatures (or cooked at all). They should be stored separately in the refrigerator. They should also be prepped separately, using different cutting boards for produce and for foods like meat that can grow germs. 
  3. Cook food thoroughly

    Use a food thermometer to make sure proper temperatures have been reached to kill germs. Make sure that stuffing is cooked to 165°F.
  4. Store food properly. 

    Germs can grow quickly in the danger zone between 41°F and 135°F. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Cooling foods need to be left uncovered, in the refrigerator, until they reach 41°F.
  5. Thaw your turkey safely

    A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing quickly. The CDC has some detailed guidance on preparing turkey safely. Remember: Don't rinse or wash your turkey.
  6. Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs.  

    Always use pasteurized eggs when making foods like eggnog, hollandaise sauce, Caesar dressing and other foods made with raw eggs.
  7. eat holiday cookies, not holiday cookie dough.

    Do not eat raw cookie dough. Untreated flour and raw eggs can grow germs. Always bake them before eating. You can buy edible cookie dough, which is made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs at all. Make sure to read the label to see if the dough is safe to eat raw.
  8. Pumpkin pies

    If you make a pumpkin pie, it needs to be baked to 180°F. It should be cooled and stored in the refrigerator to prevent germs from growing. If you buy a commercially made pumpkin pie, they have added preservatives that keep them shelf stable and allow them to be stored at room temperature for sale. Make sure and look at the "Sell By" date and the “refrigerate after opening” label. Once you open the pie, it should be stored in the refrigerator. 

Reminders For Food Service Establishments that make and package pumpkin pies

Image of a pumpkin pie on a tableMake sure you are meeting these guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health:

  • The pie needs to be cooked to at least 180°F. Pumpkin pie filling is very thick and needs that extra heat to kill germs.
  • Cool the pie completely before packaging to avoid condensation and extra moisture. 
  • Package the pie in a clean, protective package within 4 hours of baking to reduce the chances of cross contamination. The package must contain air and may not be vacuum sealed.
  • Mark the package with “Refrigerate after opening.” Make sure it is easily readable for the customer.
  • Mark with “Sell by” or “Use by” date and the initials RT, which stands for room temperature. Those initials mean that the pie is safe for selling and displaying at room temperature.

What you need to know about norovirus

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can be spread through the vomit or diarrhea of an infected person. It can also be caused by raw or undercooked shellfish. 

Norovirus spreads rapidly in a small environment, such as within a home, dormitories, day care centers, and nursing homes. This is why it’s often associated with cruise ships and can show up during the holiday season. 

Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, projectile vomiting and stomach pain usually lasting for 1-2 days. Someone who has norovirus can be contagious for up to 2 weeks after they have recovered from symptoms. 

Norovirus can be spread by infected individuals touching objects, surfaces, sharing or handling food. It can also be spread through airborne vomit particles, which can stay airborne for days. 

Someone who is infected should not work with, prepare, handle, or serve food while they have symptoms and for up to 3 days after recovery. 

Wash your hands well with soap and water, carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook shellfish thoroughly before eating. 

If a food service establishment has an outbreak of norovirus, they must sanitize non-porous surfaces with a bleach solution of 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of cold water, followed by the regular steps for sanitizing. 

There isn’t any medicine you can take to treat norovirus, but it is important to drink lots of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated.