Fort Bend County Environmental Health Stresses the Importance Of Keeping Food Safe This Holiday Season

This holiday season; keep an eye out for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Practice safe food handling techniques when entertaining during the holiday season to prevent food contamination.

To ensure that holiday foods are not only delicious but also safe, there are four basic steps you should always follow to help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses:

  • Clean
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching pets.
    • Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Wash food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria cam spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and counter tops.
  • Separate
    • Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross contamination. Bacteria can easily spread from one food product to another, especially in meat, poultry, and seafood.
    • Do not place cooked food back in a plate or cutting board that previously held raw food, unless washed with soap and warm water.
  • Cook
    • Cook foods thoroughly to safe internal temperatures. Use a food thermometer to measure temperatures. Typically, roast beef to 145°F for medium rare and 160°F for medium; poultry to a minimum of 165°F; ground meats to 160°F and ground poultry to 165°F
    • Reheat any leftovers thoroughly to 165°F; food should be hot and steaming.
  • Chill
    • Refrigerate promptly to keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Check the accuracy of refrigerator settings occasionally with a thermometer.
    • Eat cold foods while they are still cold.
    • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours in covered shallow containers.
    • Discard perishable food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours. You cannot tell whether food is contaminated with surface bacteria by the way it looks, smells or tastes.
    • When in doubt, throw it out!

“Dinner parties and buffets are always very popular around the holidays. Foods that are left out for long periods can be an ideal setting for bacteria to multiply. Remember to take special precautions to keep food safe for your family and friends,” said Dr. M. desVignes-Kendrick, Director of Health & Human Services and Local Health Authority.

Tips for Mail-Order Food Gifts:


  • Make sure the food is frozen solid or refrigerator cold.
  • Use an insulated cooler or a heavy corrugated box packed with a frozen gel-pack, or purchase dry ice for keeping food cold.
  • Alert the recipient ahead of time and set a mutually-agreeable delivery date.
  • Properly label the package: “Perishable – Keep Refrigerated,” on the outside, and provide a complete mailing address and phone number to ensure proper delivery. Ship your package by overnight delivery.

If food is sent via a mail-order company, be sure to specify overnight delivery, and request that the company supply a frozen gel-pack or dry ice in the packaging. This will help ensure that the food will arrive at your destination firm and refrigerator cold.


  • Open the package upon arrival.
  • Make sure the food is still refrigerator cold.
  • Immediately refrigerate or freeze the food.
  • If perishable food doesn’t arrive cold, don’t eat it, and notify the shipper immediately.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!


Sources: Fight BAC Campaign, FDA