Health Department provides food safety tips for holidays

Environmental Health Specialist Clay Poole informed community members of food safety tips

The Dougherty County Public Health Department isn't helping you maintain a healthy figure when it come to eating during the holiday season; they're helping you cook and eat safely.

At Friday's monthly Lunch and Learn, Environmental Health Specialist Clay Poole spoke on food safety during the holidays.

"Making sure that people are taking care of their food at home, at their friend's house, at a restaurant or anywhere else they may go to eat during the holidays," says Poole.

Mary Daniel has attended numerous Lunch and Learns at the Public Health Department and says although she knows about food safety, she stopped by to see what Poole had to add.

"I usually come to their luncheon seminars because they're so informative and even though I'm familiar with some food safety, you can always learn something else," says Daniel.

Those who love eating holiday supper throughout the day and as a late night dinner may be disappointed to what Poole had to say to that: He says leaving food out for between six and eight hours could cause harmful bacteria.

"If you leave food out at room temperature, bacteria seems to grow on it. When bacteria grows on it, certain bacterias can grow rapidly and make you sick within a couple of days," says Poole.

The Health Department also recommends when shopping, by non food and non perishable items first, buy frozen second and refrigerated foods last to make sure cold and frozen foods don't spoil. After grocery shopping, make sure you go straight home. If you have other errands to run or have a long drive home, bring a cooler to put your perishable groceries in.

While many people put their frozen meats in the sink to thaw, Poole says that is not the correct way to do so. He says to put the meat in the refrigerator a day or two to properly thaw.

After cooking, check the temperature of meats with a food thermometer. USDA recommends these safe minimum internal temperatures for the following foods.
-Steaks and Roasts â" 145 degrees Fahrenheit
-Fish â" 145 degrees Fahrenheit
-Pork 160 degrees Fahrenheit
-Ground Beef â" 160 degrees Fahrenheit
-Egg dishes â" 160 degrees Fahrenheit
-Chicken Breasts â" 165 degrees Fahrenheit
-Whole Poultry â" 165 degrees Fahrenheit

Also after cooking, Poole says it's important to clean and sanitize counters, dishes and utensils immediately. He recommends using bleach: One capful to five gallons of water will do the trick, he says.

It is also important to wash your hands before and after handing food, especially raw meats, to prevent the spread of Staph and Salmonella.