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Safe food practices for a holiday weekend
Berny Unruh

Families may be gathering for a family meal this weekend and food safety is of utmost importance. The CDC reports 48 million Americans suffer from a food-borne illness each year. Of that number, 128,000 are hospitalized each year. Most food-borne cases are largely preventable so here is a reminder of the steps to take to stay food safe.

First, wash your hands properly. Wet your hands, add soap and scrub your hands on the top and bottom, in between your fingers and underneath your fingernails for 20-30 seconds. If you do not have soap, the next best thing is to just use water. Hand sanitizer can be used but it should be used on clean hands. 

Second, cook foods to the proper temperatures. Ground beef needs to be cooked to 160 degrees internally and poultry needs to reach 165 degrees. Follow the guidelines for minimum cooking temperatures and rest time for meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check whether meat has reached a safe internal temperature that is hot enough to kill harmful germs that cause food poisoning. Always reheat leftovers to 165﮿F regardless of the food type. 

Third, keep foods that need to be cooked away from ready-to-eat foods. Cross-contamination can be dangerous and can happen not only during the cooking process but also during grocery shopping and food storage. 

Fourth, never thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products, as any perishable foods, must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” They are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as they begin to thaw and become warmer than 40° F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply. Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Avoid unsafe food practices like washing raw meat and spreading bacteria all over the sink. 

As for the Easter eggs – if you hard boil eggs and decorate them and hide them, it would be a safe practice to not eat those eggs that have been used in the egg hunt. The plastic eggs with treasurers hidden inside are the best alternative. 

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at