FREDERICTON (GNB) – New Brunswickers are reminded to take a few, simple precautions when preparing meals during the holiday season to avoid food poisoning.

Food poisoning results in a wide range of health effects, ranging from mild to severe, and may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and watery or bloody diarrhea. The Department of Health encourages the public to follow these simple food safety guidelines to help keep everyone healthy:

Separate: Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods.

  • Bacteria can be transferred from raw foods to cooked and ready-to-eat foods. This is usually done by unclean hands, cutting surfaces and utensils. Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that come into contact with raw meat or poultry before using them for cooked foods. This can be done using a solution of five millilitres of chlorine bleach to one litre of water.

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often, and fruits and vegetables to avoid the spread of bacteria.

  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, and after handling raw meats or poultry, using the bathroom or touching pets.
  • Always wash raw fruits and vegetables in clean water.

Chill: Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk of food poisoning.

  • Never thaw food at room temperature. The safest way to thaw frozen meat is in the refrigerator. This takes more time but it keeps the meat cooler. Allow 24 hours thawing time for each four to five pounds in a refrigerator. Make sure the temperature inside your refrigerator is 4 degrees Celsius or colder.
  • Store raw meats and fish below all other foods in the refrigerator to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Refrigerate food within two hours of cooking and do not eat food that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours. You cannot tell that food is contaminated by look, smell or taste.
  • Leftovers such as meat, gravy, dressing and vegetables should be quickly stored in separate containers in the refrigerator. Leftovers should not be kept for more than a few days.
  • Remove bones from large pieces of meat or poultry and divide into smaller portions before storing. This ensures better cooling throughout the food.

Cook: Make sure that you kill harmful bacteria by cooking food to proper temperature.

  • Eat cooked food while it is hot. Remember: bacteria can grow when food is allowed to cool down slowly.
  • It is safer to cook the poultry and dressing separately. A stuffed bird takes longer to cook because the dressing slows the heating process. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, stuff the turkey just before it goes into the oven. The dressing should be removed as soon as the bird is done.
  • Poultry should be roasted at an oven temperature of at least 150 degrees Celsius until it reaches an internal temperature of 82 degrees Celsius. It is safest to cook in one continuous process.
  • Always use a meat thermometer or other digital thermometer to determine readiness, especially when cooking larger portions of meat or poultry. ‘Pop up’ thermometers may not always be accurate. If you have to check more than once, clean the thermometer with hot, soapy water before using it again.
  • Turkey is done when the internal temperature of the whole bird is 82 degrees Celsius. Check the temperature of the meat in the thickest part away from bone, fat or gristle. If cooking parts of a turkey, the middle of the thickest part of the breast, thigh or middle of the dressing should reach 74 degrees Celsius.
  • When re-using leftovers, all hot foods such as gravy should be rapidly re-heated to at least 74 degrees Celsius. Leftovers should be re-heated only once.

Do not guess. The safe temperatures for cooked foods are:

Ground meats (includes sausages made with ground meat)

  • Ground beef, pork and veal: 71 C (160 F)
  • Ground chicken / turkey: 74 C (165 F)

Beef and veal - steaks and roasts

  • Medium-rare: 63 C (145 F)
  • Medium: 71 C (160 F)
  • Well done: 77 C (170 F)

Mechanically tenderized beef: 63 C (145 F)

  • In the case of steak, turn steak over at least twice during cooking

Pork - pieces and roasts: 71 C (160 F)

Poultry (chicken and turkey)

  • Breasts, legs, thighs and wings: 74 C (165 F)
  • Whole bird: 82 C (180 F)

Other

  • Leftovers, egg dishes, stuffing, casseroles and hot dogs: 74 C (165 F)

A simple food safety rule to follow is: When in doubt, throw it out.

More information about food safety is available online.