Simple Tips To Avoid A Food Poisoning Epidemic At Your Holiday Festivities

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year when you and your loved ones get together to reflect on old traditions and perhaps start new ones. Homes are filled with family and friends, children, gifts, pets, and food. There's so much going on. Given all of the distractions, it's easy to miss something — especially a step in the food safety process. When your attention is scattered, mistakes can happen. 

"Forgetting about food safety is a recipe for disaster," said Diane Calello, medical director of the poison control center at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, via WebMD. "No matter how busy your kitchen gets during the holidays, always remember the risks of improperly handling food."

The only thing worse than coming down with a nasty case of food poisoning during the holiday season may be giving it to your guests. However, by following a few simple rules, you can keep the food at your holiday party safe.

Tips for keeping your food safe during and after prep

Before you cook make sure you feel healthy. "Don't prepare food if you have any kind of respiratory illness or infection, as this puts your guests at risk of becoming ill," said Calello via WebMD. When preparing food, never let meat or fish thaw out on the counter where other foods may get contaminated, via CDC. Instead, thaw it out in the refrigerator, microwave, or in a pot of cold water.

Another mistake that causes food poisoning at holiday parties is leaving food out for too long. Hot food should be kept hot and cold food should be kept cold. Whether hot or cold, no food that requires refrigeration should be left out longer than two hours, or bacteria can grow and cause illness, via Harvard Health.

It's also best to lay out several small plates instead of one or two huge platters, via the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This not only allows the food to stay at the proper temperature longer but it prevents your guests from all touching the same exact plate.

In addition, washing your hands and encouraging your guests to wash theirs before eating, especially children, is a must. You can also make it easy for guests to stay sanitary and leave hand wipes out at prominent places close to the serving stations.