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Jan 26

Dinner please --- hold the bacteria?

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 12:44 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

We're rapidly approaching the holiday season, when families gather around the table to share in delicious meals and companionship.

This month, I thought I'd devote time to sharing some tips so we can spread cheer and not foodborne illness, which can quickly throw a wrench into any festivities. Foodborne illnesses affect about 1 in 6 Americans every year according to the CDC, and the holidays can be more of a challenge in safe food preparation because people are preparing foods in large quantities for big groups. It's also a time when folks may be preparing foods that are less often made the rest of the year: traditional eggnog made with raw eggs, or undercooked turkey, for example, can carry a risk of salmonella.

Some of the most frequent unwanted holiday guests include Salmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, E. coli and Listeria. Many of these can cause typical food poisoning symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, vomiting or fever, but occasionally symptoms can worsen and become life-threatening, especially for those with weaker immune systems.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind to help prevent foodborne illness:
• Wash your hands before and after touching food, and keep preparation and storage of uncooked vegetables and fruits or other raw foods separate from areas were meat and other food is prepared to prevent contamination.
• Serve food on clean plates that were not used in preparing the food and replace them often.
• Use a food thermometer and double check minimum safe temperatures (found at for your dish to make sure that food is cooked thoroughly.
• After your dish is ready Keep hot foods hot (145 °F or above) by using slow cookers, chafing dishes, or warming trays. Keep cold foods cold (40 °F or below), placing dishes in bowls of ice. Or, use small serving trays that are regularly replaced.
• Refrigerate or freeze foods promptly rather than letting them sit out. Shallow containers are ideal because larger containers can take a long time for the middle to get cold.

Part of my mission here in Placer County is to protect your health and safety so you can enjoy your holiday feast while avoiding the potential hazards that can be associated with preparing large amounts of food in your home kitchen.

Here in Placer County we have an Environmental Health team that works to monitor food safety practices in hundreds of restaurants, grocery stores, schools and elsewhere food is stored or served, in order to protect public health. (Visit them online at for more information) But once the food leaves the supermarket shelves and goes onto your fridge or cupboard shelves, its fate is in your – hopefully clean – hands.

Happy holidays! Dig in, and enjoy!

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at (530) 889-7141.