It is the holiday season and the Trumbull Health Department (THD), wants you to have a safe and healthy holiday. Preparing holiday meals can be stressful and overwhelming. It is important to pay attention to the handling, preparation, and cooking of foods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a foodborne illness occurs in one in six persons (48 million), resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually in the United States.

“Many people don't realize that food safety is the most important ingredient in preparing food for the holidays,” said Luci Bango, Trumbull Director of Health. “If you’re cooking for friends and family this holiday season, it’s important to make sure you’re not spreading bacteria that can cause harmful foodborne illnesses.”

Symptoms of foodborne illness include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. The onset and severity of the symptoms varies, depending on the foodborne pathogen.

Make sure you are protecting your family and friends by not falling into bad food preparation habits. The CDC recommends you always follow the four steps to food safety:

Clean your hands thoroughly for a full 20 seconds with soapy water. Always serve food on clean plates and avoid reusing plates that previously held raw meat and poultry.

Separate raw meat, poultry and egg products from ready-to-eat foods.

Cook, using a food thermometer to make sure food reaches a safe minimum internal temperature:

Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, chops and roasts): 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three minute rest.

Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal: 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Poultry (whole or ground): 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chill leftovers within two hours of cooking. Keep track of how long items have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything that has been out longer than two hours. If you are transporting food items to a holiday party, keep hot foods hot (135 degrees Fahrenheit or above) and cold foods cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below).

Use separate, insulated containers for hot and cold foods and make sure that cold foods are packed with cold sources, such as ice or frozen gel packs. The best way to ensure that food is being held at a safe temperature while you are traveling is to place an appliance thermometer in the cooler.

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available if you have questions. Call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).