3 Illness-Causing Mistakes to Avoid While Preparing a Holiday Feast

From piping-hot poultry to peppermint-infused drinks, food is second only to family on the list of things to look forward to during the holiday season.

During the traditional festivities, it may be OK to let go and let out your waistband, but you should never let your guard down when it comes to proper food safety.

Indeed, family gatherings can be breeding grounds for bad habits and food-borne bacteria alike.

Ruth Frechman, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association offers her tips on three mistakes to avoid if you don’t want to unwrap the unwelcome present of food poisoning during your holiday celebrations:

Careless cross-contamination: It’s early in the morning and you’re busy stuffing the 20-pound turkey that’s going to be the highlight of the evening’s feast. Various family members trickle into the kitchen, seeking breakfast and coffee. You set out a bowl of fresh fruit to quiet their rumbling stomachs until you’ve fired up the pancake griddle, but if you haven’t washed your hands first, your family may have been better off not eating breakfast at all. Juice from raw poultry and other meats often harbors gut grinding bacteria such as E. Coli, so it’s vital to keep uncooked meats far away from ready-to-eat foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Frechman suggests using separate cutting boards for raw meats and fish and thoroughly washing all surfaces with clean water and a sanitizing solution after use.

Prolonged party platters: Forget the flu, one of the biggest health hazards during a holiday party is food that has been left out too long. Buffet-style set ups are great for noshing while making the rounds at a casual gathering, but plates shouldn’t be left out in the open air for longer than two hours, according to Frechman. That’s how long it takes for illness-causing bacteria to grow.

Lazy leftover re-heats: Those day-after turkey sandwiches may be harboring some nasty microbes if you don’t re-heat them properly. The magic number that will kill most harmful bacteria is 165 degrees, says Frechman, who also suggests using a food thermometer when warming up leftovers to make sure they reach the necessary temperature. And don’t plan on living off of your leftovers for more than four days; beyond that, they’re probably no longer safe to eat.

Top 3 Food Preparation mistakes That Cause Food-Borne Illness originally appeared on AgingCare.com.

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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor


Kim Janik
Kim Janik4 years ago

Great and timely reminder!

Val M.
Val M4 years ago


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago


Chery Lau
Chery Lau4 years ago

Thanks for these advices. I know one of my household member love to leave food on table or counter for hour and even over night without knowing it can breed bacteria.

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez4 years ago

These comments are a hoot! The article was not what I was expecting, having just spent Christmas with my husband's sick relatives. I ate what I brought, and washed my hands well, told my kids to wash hands well, pulled out the hand sanitizer, and took vitamin C. At this point, darling husband is the only one sick. Interesting article. Thanks.

Syd Henley
Syd H4 years ago

@ Dale O. Thank you for the translation of the comment by Amanda M. What a relief that was.
It is no wonder at all that either Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw once remarked that "America and England are two nations divided by a common language."

Penny Ranger
Hendrica Ranger4 years ago

good tips thanks

Mac C.
mac C4 years ago

I didn't know that you needed to be careful how you reheated a cooked item. I rarely have leftovers, but good to know when I do. Thank you.

Angela J.
Angela J4 years ago

Great comments!

Dale O.

Syd H, it is somewhat of a fascinating sentence structure to analyze. Does Amanda M mean that the pooch was in the act of preparing a meal when some person engaged in the act of... well, you know...or is it some sort of expression since the entire thing makes no sense if it is what it sort of looks like. Since I have never heard this expression, I checked the slang expressions.

Bingo, this does make more sense and it is obviously what Amanda was saying. To deal with sensitivities and to adhere to the COC, I will shorten a specific word. For those getting a wee bit confused over what Amanda M said, here goes: The real meaning of the phrase "screwing the pooch."