Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

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food-safetyThe holiday season is officially here! Public Health Officials at the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) want you to enjoy this season with family and friends by taking few precautions while preparing holiday meals.

  1. Thaw foods in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. Allow enough time for thawing in the refrigerator; e.g., allow 24 hours in the refrigerator for every five pounds of turkey or ham;
  2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, cutting boards and other utensils before and after preparing raw foods and foods that do not require further cooking. A sanitizing solution can be prepared using one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water;
  3. Use a meat thermometer. Turkey and stuffing should be cooked thoroughly to 165° F and ham to at least 155° F before serving;
  4. Recipes requiring eggs must be cooked thoroughly to at least 145°F;
  5. If cooking a turkey, cook stuffing outside of the bird for optimum safety and uniform doneness. If the turkey is stuffed, allow approximately five minutes extra per pound longer for cooking. Remember that the center of the stuffing must reach 165°F;
  6. If egg dishes do not require cooking, such as homemade eggnog, use pasteurized egg substitutes instead of shell eggs;
  7. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water before food preparation and after handling raw meat products;
  8. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible to prevent bacterial growth. Turkey should be refrigerated one of two ways:  within two hours after it is cooked; or right after cooking, the turkey should be de-boned, sliced or pulled into pieces no more than 2 1/2 inches thick and refrigerated in shallow containers.  Store the meat, stuffing and stock in separate containers in the refrigerator or freezer;
  9. Do not eat leftover meat that has been refrigerated for longer than four days or eat leftover stuffing or gravy that has been refrigerated for longer than two days.  If properly wrapped, leftover meat may be safely consumed after being frozen for one to three months;
  10. Place foods containing meat, milk, eggs, fish or poultry in the refrigerator within four hours after cooking is completed. This includes pumpkin and custard pies;
  11. Thoroughly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating.

“Following these simple tips will ensure that you and your guests have a safe holiday meal,” said City Health Officer Darryl M. Sexton, MD.

The Health Department would also like to remind residents not to drink and drive.

“Make this a safe holiday season for yourself, your loved ones and others,” said Dr. Sexton. “The Health Department wishes everyone a safe and healthy Thanksgiving meal!”

For more information on food safety during the holidays, visit the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) web site at or the FDA Center for Food Safety an Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) web site at  Consumers can also access the national Partnership for Food Safety Education’s “Fight BAC” (bacteria) Web page at   Please contact the Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health at (562) 570-4132 with any questions.


One Response to “Food Safety Tips for the Holidays”
  1. Natalia says:

    The Partnership for Food Safety Education also has a great new holiday resource,! It has everything you need for a safe, fun, easy tasty holiday celebration!