Food is an important part of many holiday celebrations. However, many of the foods found at holiday parties, such as baked goods, eggnog, cider, seafood and turkey, can carry viruses, bacteria or parasites that could cause foodborne illness (“food poisoning”). Health Canada would like to remind all Canadians of some basic steps they can take to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness during the holiday season.
- Baked goods: Holiday cookies and squares are a special treat, but uncooked cookie dough, batters or frostings made with raw eggs can contain Salmonellabacteria. Always make sure your baked goods are cooked thoroughly and never lick the spoon or eat raw cookie dough when baking with eggs.
- Eggnog: Store-bought eggnog is pasteurized to remove any dangerous bacteria. If you’re making eggnog at home using raw eggs, be sure to heat the egg and milk mixture to at least 71° C (160° F). Immediately after heating, refrigerate the eggnog in small, shallow containers to allow it to cool quickly. Or, use pasteurized egg and milk ingredients, which are available at many grocery stores.
- Fruit juice and cider: When making punch or serving cider, check the product label to make sure the juice or cider has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized juice may contain bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella that may cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. If it has not been pasteurized, you can make it safer by boiling the product before serving.
- Oysters and seafood: Some people enjoy eating raw seafood, such as oysters and sushi, during their holiday festivities. However, raw or undercooked fish and seafood may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses, so special care is needed in their preparation and handling. Keep seafood like raw oysters or cold cooked shrimp rings refrigerated and serve them on ice to ensure they remain cold at holiday buffets. People who are more vulnerable to the risks of foodborne illness, such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems, should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish and seafood.
- Holiday Buffets: If you are serving food buffet-style, use warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots to keep hot foods hot, and put serving trays on crushed ice to keep cold foods cold. Don’t let food remain at room temperature for more than two hours or add new food to serving dishes already in use. Instead, use a clean platter or serving dish each time you re-stock the buffet.
- Turkey and stuffing: If cooking a turkey for a holiday meal, use a digital food thermometer to make sure it is cooked properly. The temperature of the thickest part of the breast or thigh should be at least 85° C (185° F). To prevent potential cross-contamination, cook stuffing separately in its own oven dish or on the stove top. If you do stuff your turkey, stuff loosely just prior to roasting, and remove all stuffing immediately after cooking. Cook stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 74° C (165° F), and refrigerate within two hours of cooking.
It’s estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.