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December 13, 2018

Holiday Feasts Can Serve Up Foodborne Illness

ThedaCare offers simple food safety practices to prevent infections

December 13, 2018


ThedaCare Offers Simple Food Safety Practices to Prevent Infections

APPLETON, Wis. – The festive season is upon us and we will soon be offered platters of delicious food, lovingly prepared by people with perfect hand-washing hygiene and food preparation and storage practices—we hope. If food isn’t safely and thoughtfully prepared, we are left vulnerable to foodborne illnesses including salmonella, E. coli and others.

These diseases can last days or weeks and cause unpleasant and painful symptoms like nausea and vomiting, severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and dehydration. Otherwise healthy people may recover on their own if they can stay hydrated and replace lost electrolytes. Many may need a doctor’s care.

Germs can contaminate food sources during any stage of production. Once food reaches the kitchen, it can be contaminated by unsanitary hands, improper cooking techniques or poor refrigeration.

Here are tips to help prevent the spread of these less-than-festive infections:

  • Wash the food — Thoroughly wash and rinse uncooked meat and fresh produce to remove germs. Wash bagged salads. If a fruit has a rind that is not eaten, like a melon or lemon, rinse it carefully before it touches your cutting board.
  • Wash your hands — Be attentive and thorough when washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom and when you are cooking and handling raw food. If you have pets in your home such as mammals, reptiles, birds or fish, be aware they each carry different bacteria. Carefully wash your hands after handling them or their supplies.
  • Cook food to proper temperature — Invest in a quality kitchen thermometer to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature, when infectious agents are destroyed by the heat.
    • Ground beef — 160 F (71.1 C)
    • Steaks, roasts and chops, such as lamb, pork and veal — at least 145 F (62.8 C)
    • Chicken and turkey — 165 F (73.9 C)
    • Cook fish and shellfish thoroughly
    • Serve hot foods promptly 
  • Refrigerate — Refrigerate food properly and do not keep party platters out for more than two hours. Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter; and keep leftovers up to four days in the fridge. The safety zone for cold foods like salads, cheeses and dips is 32-40 F.

The holiday season brings families together and research shows cooks generally learn how to thaw, prepare, cook and store food from watching the generations before them. Model safe kitchen behaviors and take the opportunity to explain what you are doing and why. You will make happy memories and help prevent the dangerous and uncomfortable effects of foodborne illness for generations to come.

Abdur Khan, MD, is an infectious disease specialist with ThedaCare Physicians-Infectious Diseases

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.