The holiday season is here, and parents have been cooking up lots of questions about food safety. Let me see if I can provide a few safe ingredients on this topic.

First, nothing ends a joyous holiday visit with friends and family quite like food poisoning. When it comes to preparing or serving food for loved ones, the name of the game is food safety. A great place to begin is washing your hands frequently when cooking and having your children do the same.

Always cook meats and poultry fully and wash all raw vegetables and fruits with running water. If buying packaged meat, poultry or fish, check the expiration date on the label.

Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate in the fridge, and use separate utensils when preparing them. Meat should always be thawed in a refrigerator and not on the countertop. Foods that require refrigeration, such as eggs, should never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Never put cooked meat in a dish that was holding raw meat, poultry or fish. Don’t use a dish towel to clean or wipe off your hands after handling raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs. Use paper towels instead. Otherwise, bacteria could spread from the food to you to the dish towel to someone else who is cooking.

If young children are in the kitchen, keep hot foods away from edges of tables or counters. Turn those pot handles inward, toward the back of the stove, to stay away from little hands.

As to leftovers, eat them within three or four days or throw them out.

Hopefully tips like these will not spoil your holiday, keeping the “ho ho hos” from becoming food-poisoning “woe-woe-woes.”

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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