October 24th, 2020

AHS offers food safety tips for the holidays


By Mabell, Dave on December 17, 2019.

LETHBRIDGE HERALD

Snacks, nibbles and lavish family meals: they’re all part of Christmas festivities for many Canadians. To help it remain an incident-free holiday, Alberta Health Services is offering some timely reminders.

Remembering to wash your hands frequently is important, health officials say – whether you’re baking, prepping food for the grill or setting up a family feast – to reduce the risk of bacteria causing food-borne illness.

Bacteria can be found in raw and undercooked meat, poultry, fish and their juices as well as in unpasteurized milk and raw milk products like soft and semi-soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.

Raw and lightly cooked eggs can also be a bacteria risk, and so can uncooked flour and uncooked products made with flour – such as dough.

Many of these foods are part of holiday menus, so Albertans are encouraged to take extra care when preparing, cooking, serving and storing food over the holiday period.

To be safe, health officials urge hot foods be kept at 60 C or above, and cold foods at 4 C or below.

Meat, poultry, eggs, fish or shellfish – raw or cooked – should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours, they add, and leftovers should be chilled as soon as the meal is finished.

Storing leftovers in small, shallow containers allows them to cool rapidly.

And don’t reheat food that might be contaminated, officials warn – that does not make it safe.

There’s also an increase of home-prepared foods being offered for sale at this time of year. Cookies, squares, muffins, cakes and pies are popular, along with home-prepared beef jerky, cabbage rolls and perogies.

Alberta food regulations allow distribution of homemade, low-risk foods from farmers’ markets or community organization functions when safe food-handling practices are followed. Apart from that all food prepared, served or sold to the public must be from an approved facility.

The only way to ensure proper food handling and preparation procedures have been followed is to purchase goods from businesses approved by Alberta Health Services, officials add. Buyers are encouraged to ask to see a copy of the seller’s food-handling permit.

Anyone with questions or complaints about the sale of home-prepared goods is asked to call their local environmental public health office.

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