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State health officials offer food safety tips for holiday

CONCORD - Nobody wants Thanksgiving night, or the next day, to be ruined because someone got sick. So the state Department of Health and Human Services' Bureau of Food Protection is offering reminders about food safety practices to ensure no one falls prey to salmonella, e. coli or campylobacter this holiday.

Although it is difficult to determine without laboratory testing what has caused diarrhea, abdominal cramps and nausea, food safety practices can sharply reduce the possibility of foodborne illness striking the people at your holiday dinner table or those late snackers.

"Don't let germs ruin your holiday activities by not taking proper precautions against foodborne disease," said Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero.

He recommends following these food safety procedures every day:

. Use a separate cutting board for cooked and raw foods and wash the board and knife after each use. Do not cut raw vegetables on the same cutting board as raw meat.

. Always wash your hands before touching food and wash both your hands and surfaces often during food preparation and after.

. Use a thermometer to make sure all meats are thoroughly cooked: turkey, stuffing and casseroles to 165 degrees; veal, beef and lamb roasts to 145 degrees, and ham, pork, ground beef and egg dishes to 160 degrees. And when you heat up leftovers, make sure their temperature reaches 165 degrees.

. You can linger at the table after the Thanksgiving meal, and of course the football games on television are calling you, but don't let leftovers sit out. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours. The refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees or lower and the freezer temperatures should be 0 degrees or lower.

. Do not defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in a cold-water bath or in the microwave. If you choose the microwave, the food must be cooked immediately after thawing. Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

If, despite all your precautions, someone exhibits symptoms that could be the result of foodborne disease, whether they ate at home, at a friend's or relative's house, or at a restaurant, call the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at 271-4496. Montero said often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected.


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