“Over the river and through the woods…” Transporting food safely is key to happy holidays

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 15, 2000 – “If you are planning to transport holiday foods, especially those dishes containing meat, eggs, fish or poultry, make sure you keep it safe and prevent harmful bacteria from being ‘guests’ at your dinner table,” advises URI Food Safety Education Specialist Martha Smith Patnoad. When transporting food, Patnoad recommends the following: Whenever possible, prepare the dish where the dinner is to be served. When transporting raw ingredients that need to be kept cold — meat, fish, poultry, pies with eggs as ingredients – pack them in an insulated cooler containing cold packs. Remember that food should not be in the temperature danger zone (40-140°F) for more than two hours. If the dish must be prepared ahead of time, thoroughly cook the food, cool quickly and refrigerate immediately. Always transport in an insulated container with cold packs to keep the food below 40°F. Use a food thermometer to insure the internal temperature of the reheated food reaches 165°F. When traveling a short distance and preparing a dish at home to be served hot at mealtime, cook the dish to the recommended USDA temperature or higher. For example, poultry should be cooked to at least 180°F. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Wrap the dish in several layers of towels, blankets or other food safe insulating material and place in an insulated container. After arriving at the meal site, reheat immediately to 165°F or higher. Remember: this method should only be used for short trips. When ordering a complete turkey dinner from a local restaurant or grocery store, be sure the food is hot when it is picked up (at least 165°F). Use an insulated container to keep the food hot for the trip home. Harmful bacteria multiply fastest between 40°F and 140°F. If the precooked dinner will not be served right away, remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate the potatoes, gravy and vegetables in small portions in shallow containers. At serving time, reheat thoroughly to 165°F. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food is completely reheated. If reheating in the microwave, cover the food and rotate the dish so it heats evenly. Inadequate heating in the microwave or conventional oven can contribute to food-borne illness. After dinner, refrigerate food right away (no longer than two hours after cooking). Cut the turkey off the bone and remove the stuffing. Divide the other foods and refrigerate immediately in shallow containers. When taking leftovers home, keep them cool for the journey in an insulated container with cold packs. Put in the refrigerator immediately upon arriving home. For more information on preparing a “food safe” Thanksgiving dinner, call the URI Gardening and Food Safety Hotline at 1-800-448-1011 Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For Information: Martha Patnoad 874-2960, Todd McLeish 874-7892