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Beware of Holiday Foods That
Its that time of year again. Were overcome by the
thrill of holiday shopping, parties, family gatherings, out-of-town guests and
everything else that makes from now until New Years so darn special
But in the midst of all the holiday hustle and
bustle, we often lose sight of whats really important -- just how long
should those festive food trays stay out in the open air?
This year, our holiday gift to you is a guide to
preventing food poisoning. Food-borne illness is no joke. An estimated 76
million Americans are leveled by food-borne illness annually. At least 5,200
The elderly and indviduals with compromised
immune systems are at the greatest risk. But food safety expert Debra Holtzman
says it tis the season to be cautious because even the healthiest
partygoer is a potential victim.
Most of us will attend or host at least one
gathering over the next few months. And chances are there will be plenty of
festive food spreads that include everything from cold cuts to dips to
desserts. Holtzman, author of The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating A Safe
Lifestyle for Your Family (McGraw-Hill), says you can take measures to ward
off food-borne illness.
At parties, they put out cold cuts, pies, cut-up
fruit, she says from her Florida home. What happens is you get so caught up
with your guests, you dont remember the 'two hour rule.' If food is left out
more than two hours, bacteria grows to harmful levels and thats when people get
You have to keep an eye on the food. If
guests come at 4 p.m. and the food is still there at 8 p.m., you have to
realize that people can get sick. You lose track of things during the holidays
with so much going on.
Another error made by well-intentioned hosts and
hostesses is the topping off of a dish thats been sitting for an extended
amount of time. You shouldn't dump fresh food atop old food. When you do refill
a dish, empty and wash the platter or serve the new food on a new platter.
Its a simple step in reducing the risk of foodborne illness.
Holtzman urges party-throwers to keep an eye on the clock and never leave food
out for longer than two hours.
If youre a concerned guest, you can nicely
ask the host if they would like you to put the food in the refrigerator so that
the food doesnt go bad.
Food-borne illness is by no means a holiday
tradition a la How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's important to keep
the kitchen area clean year-round.
In this eDiets exclusive, Holtzman serves up a
few steps that should be taken when preparing your favorite holiday
foods. You may not realize how sick you can get from certain dishes,
especially those involving raw eggs.
If a recipe calls for raw eggs, try pasteurized
eggs or no egg at all. It could mean the difference between a healthy holiday
and a harrowing one that leaves you Grinch-like green around the gills.
There are very few things we can control in
life," Holtzman says. "But these are things we have the power to control.
Here are some popular foods that can be hazardous
to your health.
- Eggnog: The best way to serve eggnog is
to buy it in carton. The store-sold product is pasteurized and is safe. If you
make your own eggnog, use only pasteurized eggs, not raw ones.
- Pies: Custard-type pies, including
homemade pumpkin pie, need to be refrigerated. If you run out of space in the
refrigerator, rearrange items so that the pies will fit inside the
refrigerator. Pies at room temperature can grow dangerous bacteria.
- Honey: Never give honey to a baby under
the age of one. Honey may contain bacterial spores that can cause infant
botulism, a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young
- Chocolate: Pet owners beware! Chocolate
is toxic, and sometimes even fatal, for Fido or Kitty!
- Candy canes: Hard candies and candy
canes present a choking risk. Keep out of reach of small children.
- Cookie dough: If you use raw eggs in the
cookie dough batter, eat your homemade cookies fully cooked! Raw eggs can be
contaminated with salmonella, a food-borne illness that can prove fatal if
- Apple cider: Pasteurization kills
bacteria. If you aren't sure if a product is pasteurized, boil it for a minute.
Unpasteurized products have been linked to salmonella, E. coli and listeria --
all can lead to death.
- Turkey and stuffing: Cooking stuffing in
a turkey or chicken should be avoided. The bird cooks both from the outside and
the inside. When you stuff the bird, it reduces the heat penetration. Your best
bet is to cook the turkey and stuffing separately. If you do choose to cook
them together, make sure the temperature reaches at least 180 degrees
Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh, while the center of the stuffing
inside the turkey reaches 165 degrees. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that
hasn't reached that temperature.
- Caesar salad: Many recipes call for raw
eggs in Caesar salad. Do not use raw eggs in the dressing. Use a pasteurized
- Perishable foods: Never leave perishable
food at room temperature over two hours. Perishable foods include raw and
cooked meat, poultry and seafood products. Once fruits and vegetables are cut,
it is safest to also limit their time at room temperature. If perishable food
is left at room temperature for over two hours, bacteria can grow to harmful
- Alcohol: Alcohol affects children more
drastically than adults, so even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous to
children. It causes a quick drop in blood sugar, drowsiness, seizures and even
death. Spiked holiday punch and eggnog should be kept out of the reach of
children. Remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible. Store
alcohol in a locked cabinet out of reach and sight of children. Don't store it
in your refrigerator where a child could have easy access. Remember that
children imitate adults and may drink the beverages they see adults drinking.
Now that you're armed with a few simple rules, go
forth and enjoy a safe, happy holiday season!
Debra Holtzman is a nationally recognized
safety and health expert and the author of the popular book, The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating A Safe Lifestyle for Your
Family (McGraw-Hill). Debra can be seen every week as "the safety
expert" on the new television series "Make Room for Baby" on the Discovery
To get your copy of her book,