Serve Up Food Safety at Your Holiday Meals

To safely prepare, handle, and serve food, local public health departments recommend the following four steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

November 25, 2019 | 3 min reading time

This article is 3 years old. It was published on November 25, 2019.

Local health departments in the St. Louis region are reminding residents to practice safe food handling and preparation as the holidays approach and families get ready to prepare their favorite meals. 

“Many foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following a few simple rules,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, director of health for the City of St. Louis.

To safely prepare, handle, and serve food, local public health departments recommend the following four steps:


  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, launder them often in the hot cycle.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush.


  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs unless the plate has been washed in hot, soapy water.
  • Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.


  • Color and texture cannot determine safety. Always use a food thermometer for meat, poultry, seafood, and egg products for all cooking methods. Check packaging for the minimum internal temperature.
  • When cooking in a microwave oven, cover food, stir, and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking. Always allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating.
  • Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat uncooked dough or batter of any kind, including those for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants.
  • Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.


  • Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the refrigerator temperature is consistently 40° F or below, and the freezer temperature is 0° F or below.
  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90° F.
  • Never thaw your turkey or other frozen foods on the countertop. Instead, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

For more information on food safety and foodborne illness, please visit:

For more information on how to safely thaw your foods, please visit:

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