Holiday Party Hints for Avoiding Food Poisoning

Staff reports

The holiday season often includes gathering with friends and family for holiday dinners, office parties or other celebrations. But those get-togethers may also include an unwanted guest – food poisoning.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. In Illinois, it is estimated that as many as 250,000 cases of foodborne illness may occur each year.  However, because these illnesses can be quite mild and because the vast majority of them occur in the home, many go unreported.

Holiday Hosts – how not to invite Mr. E.coli and Ms. Salmonella to your party:

• Keep everything in the kitchen clean.

• Wash hands often during food preparation and while serving.

• Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

Keep everything in the kitchen clean. Counter tops and utensils should be washed with hot, soapy water between each step in food preparation. Bacteria from raw meat and poultry can get into other foods if they touch the same surfaces or each other.

Wash hands often during food preparation and while serving. Most bacteria get into food through improper handling. Hands should always be washed with soap and warm water before handling food, and towels and wash cloths should be kept clean as bacteria can linger in those used repeatedly between launderings.  Also, if someone has diarrhea or vomiting, they should not prepare or serve food for others as they may give them a present no one wants.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Cooking food thoroughly kills most bacteria that cause food poisoning. Cook meat and poultry thoroughly (see chart below) and use a thermometer to check the temperature. Maintain hot food at 140°F, and store and serve cold foods at or below 40°F. Do not leave food unrefrigerated longer than one hour at a time or the chances of dangerous bacterial growth increase. In other words, do not let potentially hazardous foods reach that intermediate temperature at which microorganisms grow best, between 40°F and 140°F.



Medium Rare   145°

Medium  160°

Well Done     170°

Ground beef   160°


Ham     160°


Chicken 165°

Turkey  165°


Casseroles    160°

Sauces, custards    160°

Party goers and guests – avoiding unintentional guests.

Be cautious when eating certain foods, such as raw oysters, egg drinks, mousse or bread pudding (unless made with pasteurized eggs or an egg substitute); softboiled eggs; steak tartare; and rare or medium hamburger. These foods can harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning. It is particularly important that young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who are ill or whose immune systems are compromised not eat raw or undercooked animal products or raw oysters unless they have consulted a physician.

If you or a family member develops nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or abdominal cramps, you could have food poisoning. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to two weeks after eating the contaminated food. Most often, people get sick with four to 48 hours after eating contaminated food.

Some foodborne illnesses will resolve themselves without treatment. However, if the symptoms are severe or if the person is very young, old, pregnant or already ill, call a doctor or go to a nearby hospital immediately. If groups of people from different households become sick with vomiting and diarrhea, contact the local health department.