Health department offers food safety tips

Planning for holiday meals should include more than a delicious menu and invited guests. The McHenry County Department of Health wants residents to practice safe food handling, as well.
Keeping �hot things hot (more than 135 degrees) and cold things cold� can reduce your risk of a food-borne illness.
Other safety tips:
� Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator (allow one day for each 5 pounds of weight plus an extra day or two).
� Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after handling foods.
� Clean all kitchen surfaces before you begin cooking.
� Scrub cutting boards with hot soapy water after preparing food to avoid cross contamination.
� Use a metal-stemmed food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to the proper temperature. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Poultry, stuffed pasta and reheated foods should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Ground meats, pork and eggs should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Beef roasts, steaks and fish should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
Insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part (away from the bone) of the meat. When cooking casseroles and egg dishes, place the thermometer into the thickest portion, making sure that it does not touch the bottom of the pan. Metal-stemmed thermometers can be bought at grocery, hardware and department stores.
� It is recommended that leftovers be refrigerated within two hours of serving time.
Food-borne illness is preventable. If you suspect a food-borne illness, call the health department for an investigation.
The staff can be reached from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 815-334-4585. For after-hours emergencies, call 815-344-7421.
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