Food safety for the holiday

 

Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day

  • Refrigerated ready-to-eat foods: If not prepared and handled properly, deli-style salads (especially those containing protein, like egg, chicken, ham, and seafood) can be contaminated with listeria. This includes salads from the store as well as those that are homemade – and sandwiches made from these salads.
  • Since these types of salads are ready-to-eat and not reheated, they can pose a risk to pregnant women, and you may want to avoid them altogether. If you do choose to eat them, discard any leftovers four days after preparation.
  • Also stay away from salads (and other food) left unrefrigerated or unheated. So, for example, if you arrive at a party and there’s a potato salad that’s not on ice, or meat that’s not on a hot plate, don’t eat it unless you know for sure that it’s been out for less than two hours (one hour for refrigerator foods if it’s a very warm day, over 90 degrees).
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meats: Hot dogs are generally high in nitrates, as well as fat and sodium – but it’s safe to enjoy one now and then, provided it’s fresh off the grill or has otherwise been cooked until steaming hot (to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill bacteria that may be present. Also be sure to handle the juice that comes from hot-dog and deli-meat packaging carefully. Don’t let it come in contact with foods that won’t be cooked, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it.
  • Luncheon and deli meats also need to be reheated until they’re steaming hot to be safe.
  • Burgers and other grilled meat or fish: If you’re offered a burger or other grilled or barbecued meat, chicken, pork, or fish, make sure it’s cooked well-done and not pink in any areas. E. coli, salmonella and toxoplasma can lurk in undercooked meats. (Ground beef, veal, lamb and pork should be cooked to at least 160 degrees F and ground poultry to 165 degrees F. Pork roasts and chops need to reach 145 degrees F, whole poultry 180 degrees F, chicken breasts 170 degrees F, and fish 145 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to test the temperature, because the color of the food isn’t always a good indicator of doneness.)
  • Note: Because of concerns about mercury in fish, the FDA recommends limiting yourself to 12 ounces (about two servings) of fish a week and avoiding some kinds of fish altogether. For more information, see our article on eating fish safely during pregnancy.
  • Ice cream: Make sure the homemade ice cream being served isn’t made with raw eggs, which can contain salmonella. (Cooking kills the bacteria but freezing doesn’t.)
  • Ice: Use clean ice for your drinks, not the ice that’s keeping the meat cold or that others have stuck their hands into. Bacteria can thrive in a cooler full of ice.
  • Raw sprouts: Don’t garnish your burger or salad with alfalfa or other raw sprouts. They can contain E. coli or salmonella bacteria. For the same reason, make sure raw vegetables – in particular lettuce and cabbage – have been washed.
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