Health officials offer food safety tips ahead of holiday gatherings

PIERRE, S.D. (KSFY) - State health officials are issuing food safety reminders ahead of the holiday season.

South Dakota epidemiologist Josh Clayton said a few safety tips can go a long ways toward avoid food-borne illnesses.

“While you enjoy all the holiday festivities, don’t forget good food safety practices,” Clayton said. “Wash your hands thoroughly, clean and sanitize work surfaces after preparing raw meat and poultry, cook and store foods at proper temperatures, and don’t prepare food when you’re sick.”

Clayton said symptoms of food-borne illness include mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Most people recover on their own without medication but some need fluids to prevent dehydration.

According to a newly-released CDC report, during 2018 and early 2019 public health officials investigated a nationwide Salmonella outbreak related to raw turkey products. The outbreak was widespread, sickening 356 people in 42 states, including South Dakota. Investigators found the outbreak strain in several brands and types of raw turkey products for people and pets highlighting the importance of handling and cooking raw turkey safely.

The CDC estimates food-borne illness sickens 48 million Americans every year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. For South Dakota this extrapolates to approximately 125,000 illnesses, 340 hospitalizations and eight deaths annually.

Clayton recommends the following safety tips for preparing holiday foods:

• Clean and sanitize. Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils and countertops.

• Separate. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods.

• Cook foods to a safe temperature, checking with a food thermometer (145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, 165°F for poultry and stuffing).

• Chill. Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and refrigerate leftovers right away.

• When cooking food ahead of time cool it quickly and reheat properly.

• Don’t lick the bowl if raw eggs are in the batter; don’t use raw eggs in eggnog.

• Never use unpasteurized milk in eggnog or homemade ice cream, or for drinking.