Make sure your holiday feast is safe for friends and family

During this holiday season, you may celebrate with family and friends over a meal or two.

If you’re the person cooking that feast, your loved ones are counting on you for more than a delicious meal. They’re counting on you to keep health and safety in mind as you create your culinary delights.

The American food supply is among the safest in the world, but food that isn’t prepared, cooked, and stored properly can lead to foodborne illness. Each year, about 128,000 Americans require a hospital stay because of that illness, and about 3,000 people die. There are an estimated 48 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. each year.

Here are some resources to help you prepare food and that will help keep your family and friends healthy throughout the holiday season.

Cooking, handling, and storing food properly is the first step toward avoiding foodborne illness. That means washing your hands often, cleaning your produce, not washing chicken (to avoid spreading germs), and keeping raw meats and vegetables separated before cooking.

Who are you cooking for? Some people have a higher risk for foodborne illness, including those younger than 5, older than 65, those who are pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems because of disease, chemotherapy, or dialysis.

If you’re unsure, here are some do’s and don’ts for preparing your meal. Afterwards, be sure to chill leftovers within two hours to prevent bacterial growth.

Most foodborne illnesses happen suddenly and last for a short time. Symptoms may include cramping, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you think that you or a loved one has a foodborne illness, contact your health care provider immediately.

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