Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

by Lynne Clement, Communications Specialist, Division of Public Health Services

As many are starting to plan for fall and winter holiday celebrations, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Food Protection Section is providing some simple tips to avoid foodborne illnesses, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 31 pathogens known to cause foodborne illness. Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to foodborne diseases. Symptoms can vary depending on the illness, but some common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea. It is difficult to say with certainty which microbe is causing a given illness without laboratory testing.

The following simple precautions should always be followed by cooks and food service workers to reduce the possibility of anyone becoming sick:

  • Separate: Use a separate cutting board for cooked foods and raw foods and always wash them after use. Do not cut raw vegetables on the same cutting board as raw meat. Avoid cross-contamination. Wash any utensil after preparing one food item before going on to the next item.
  • Clean: Always wash hands before touching any food. Wash hands and surfaces often during food preparation and afterward.
  • Cook: Make sure all meats are thoroughly cooked by using a meat thermometer: turkey, stuffing, and casseroles to 165°F; veal, beef, and lamb roasts to 145°F; and ham, pork, ground beef, and egg dishes to 160°F. When reheating, leftovers should be thoroughly heated to 165°F.
  • Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours. The refrigerator should be maintained at 40°F or lower and the freezer should be at 0°F or lower. Keep hot foods hot, 140°F or hotter, and cold foods cold, 40°F or below. Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator, in a cold-water bath, or in the microwave. When using a microwave, meat must be cooked immediately after. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
  • Report: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to DHHS by calling 603-271-4496. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official calls you to talk about an outbreak, your cooperation is important, even if you are not ill.

For more information, visit,,, or To report a foodborne outbreak, call the DHHS Division of Public Health Services at 603-271-4496.
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