The Holidays: It’s All About The Sides


Main dishes may dominate most holiday tables, but the space on your plate will probably be filled with more sides than whatever holiday meat is served. Proper food handling and cooking will make sure these items come out just as safe and delicious as your main meat.

Making a safe side dish can be even harder than making a main dish safely because side dishes usually contain many ingredients. The more ingredients in the dish the greater the opportunity there is for cross-contamination. By keeping your side dish components separate, you can avoid cross-contamination.

Below is a list of holiday side dishes that offer unique food safety challenges.


Kugel, a traditional Jewish dish, and many other types of casseroles served during winter holidays, contain eggs. As with all dishes containing egg,Salmonella bacteria are a concern. You cannot tell if an egg containsSalmonella. In fact, the bacterium has been found inside even a clean, unbroken egg.

The only way to make sure these dishes are safe to eat is by fully cooking the eggs they contain. You know the dish is fully cooked when a thermometer inserted into the center of the mixture reaches 160 °F.

Cook casseroles completely at one time – do not partially cook them and then finish cooking later. Harmful bacteria will grow between the time you start and finish cooking, even if you refrigerate the food in between. Those bacteria may produce toxins that can make you sick.

Meaty Sides

Lots of holiday side dishes include meat. Whether you’re serving Brussels sprouts and bacon, stuffing with sausage, or another meaty accompaniment, make side dishes containing meat with extra care. The following tips will help ensure your meaty sides are food safe:

  • Cook raw meat, poultry, or shellfish ingredients to safe temperatures before adding to the rest of the side’s ingredients. This reduces the risk of food poisoning from the bacteria that may be found in the raw ingredients.
  • Stuffing is safe to eat when the center reaches 165 °F. This is particularly important for stuffing inside a roast or containing meat.
  • Resist the temptation to taste your side dish before it is fully cooked. Eating undercooked meat, poultry, and egg products can place you at increased risk for food poisoning.
  • Cook your meaty side dishes after you prepare your sides that will not be cooked. This prevents cross-contamination.

Ready-to-Eat Sides

If you are in a rush this holiday and plan to pick up a meat or cheese tray to bring to a party, make sure the tray is refrigerated in the store. You should also keep the tray cold until serving because these cut items provide bacteria a wonderful environment to replicate in. Be careful to keep it separated from raw meat and poultry.

If you want to serve precooked appetizers such as mini quiche make sure you have your food thermometer nearby. Check the internal temperatures of a sampling of these items to confirm they’ve reached a safe internal temperature before serving.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “It’s all about the Sides.” For more information, please visit

Cooking Meats at the Right Temperature

holiday-roast-fb-shutterstock_212887216Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cooking Whole Cuts of Pork: USDA has lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 ºF to 145 ºF with the addition of a three-minute rest time. Cook pork, roasts, and chops to 145 ºF as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source, with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in a product that is both safe and at its best quality—juicy and tender.
  • Cooking Whole Cuts of Other Meats: For beef, veal, and lamb cuts, the safe temperature remains unchanged at 145 ºF, but the department has added a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations.



  • Ground Meats: This change does not apply to ground meats, including beef, veal, lamb, and pork, which should be cooked to 160 ºF and do not require a rest time.
  • Poultry: The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, stays the same at 165 ºF.

What Is Rest Time?

“Rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria.


How Do You Use a Food Thermometer?

Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food. It should not touch bone, fat, or gristle. Start checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Be sure to clean your food thermometer with hot soapy water before and after each use.

To see where to place a food thermometer in different cuts of meat, see Thermometer Placement and Temperatures. For more information on cooking temperatures for all types of food, see the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures.” For more information, please visit

The Three P’s of Safe Winter Driving

tire-tread-winter-fb-shutterstock_226121164Winter driving can be hazardous and scary, especially in northern regions that get a lot of snow and ice. Additional preparations can help make a trip safer, or help motorists deal with an emergency. This sheet provides safety information for your residents to help prevent motor vehicle injuries due to winter storms.

The Three P’s of Safe Winter Driving:

 PREPARE for the trip  PROTECT  yourself PREVENT crashes


Maintain Your Car: Check battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers, keep your windows clear, put no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and check your antifreeze.

Have On Hand: flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (like flares) and blankets. For long trips, add food and water, medication and cell phone.

Stopped or Stalled? Stay with your car, don’t over exert, put bright markers on antenna or windows and shine dome light, and, if you run your car, clear exhaust pipe and run it just enough to stay warm.

Plan Your Route: Allow plenty of time (check the weather and leave early if necessary), be familiar with the maps/ directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.

Practice Cold Weather Driving!

  • During daylight, rehearse maneuver slowly on the ice or snow in an empty lot
  • Steer into a skid
  • Know what your brakes will do: stomp on antilock brakes, pump non-antilock brakes
  • Stopping distances are longer on watercovered ice and ice
  • Don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space

wheel_closeup_winterPROTECT YOURSELF 

  • Buckle up and use child safety seats properly
  • Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag
  • Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat


  • Drugs and alcohol never mix with driving
  • Slow down and increase distances between cars
  • Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road
  • Avoid fatigue – Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible
  • If you are planning to drink, designate a sober driver
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Safe Winter Driving.” For more information, please visit

Hosting Your Holiday Party – Safety Tips and Ideas


When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family be sure to wash hands, utensils, sink, and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry. Keep in mind that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook.

™Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.

™While doing holiday cooking, keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.

Use a clean food thermometer to cook foods to a safe internal temperature before serving.

Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. They easily harbor bacteria and promote bacteria growth. Use clean paper towels instead.

When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate any bacterial growth.

™Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after ooking. Date the leftovers for future use.

™Being a smart party host or guest should include being sensible about alcoholic drinks. More than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. Use designated drivers, people who do not drink, to drive other guests home after a holiday party.

™The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. You can’t avoid stress completely, but you can give yourself some relief. Allow enough time to shop for gifts and meal items rather than hurry through stores and parking lots. Only plan to do a  reasonable number of errands.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Holiday Safety Tips.” For more information, please visit

Holiday Fire Safety Video

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire.

This above is the video “Holiday Fire Safety.” For more information please visit

Every holiday season, fires claim lives and cost millions in damage. To prevent holiday fires in your home, keep fresh Christmas trees away from heat sources; do not overload electrical sockets; and avoid using lit candles. Another important safety tip, which applies throughout the year, is to ensure that your smoke alarms are working.

For a full version of this infographic, visit

Cooking and Fire Safety


Cooking safety tips

Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. It’s important to be alert to prevent cooking fires.

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.


The above is the article “Cooking Safety Tips.” For more information please visit

The Basics of Staying Healthy While Traveling Outside the US


Before you travel outside the United States, plan ahead to stay healthy and safe on your trip.

Answer these questions as you plan your trip:

  • Do I need any shots (vaccines) or medicines to prevent diseases?
  • Will the food and water be safe?
  • Will I be able to get the medicines I need during my trip?
  • What happens if I get sick while I’m traveling?
  • Am I at risk for health problems during travel?

Do I need any shots or medicines to prevent diseases?
Different diseases are common in different parts of the world. Getting certain shots (vaccines) and medicines before traveling can protect you from local diseases. For example:

  • Shots can protect you from diseases like hepatitis A. You can get hepatitis A from contaminated (unsafe) food or water. It’s common in many countries, including those in Central and South America.
  • Medicines can protect you from diseases like malaria. Malaria (“muh-LAIR-ee-yah”) is a disease spread by mosquitoes in some parts of the world, like Africa and Asia.

To stay healthy and safe on your trip, do your homework on the place you’ll be visiting:

Will the food and water be safe?
In some countries, the tap water isn’t safe to drink – especially for people who aren’t used to it. Even if the tap water doesn’t affect the people who live there, it might have germs that could make you sick.

In places where the tap water isn’t safe to drink, you need to be careful about what you eat, too. Some foods, like fresh vegetables and fruits, may not be safe to eat because they are washed or cooked with unsafe water.

Get more information about food and water safety for travelers.

Will I be able to get the medicines I need?
It can be difficult to get medicines when you are traveling. It’s always a good idea to pack all the medicine you might need.

  • Make a list of the medicines you take or might need when you are traveling. Include prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Pack enough for the whole trip plus some extra, in case you are away longer than you plan to be.
  • Keep medicines in your carry-on bag in case the luggage you check gets lost.

Get more tips on what to pack to help you stay healthy.

What happens if I get sick while I’m traveling?
It can be scary if you need medical help when you are far from home – especially if you don’t speak the local language. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are prepared.

Before you leave, make a list of the places you could go for help if you get sick. For example, the United States has offices – called embassies and consulates – in many parts of the world. Employees at U.S. embassies and consulates can help U.S. citizens in emergencies.

Look up the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling.

Am I at risk for health problems during travel?
Some people are more likely to have health problems when traveling outside the United States. Visit your doctor before planning a trip to another country, especially if you:

Depending on your situation, the doctor may recommend that you not travel right now.

This above is the video “Stay Healthy When You Travel.” For more information please visit

Watch: Food Safety During the Holidays

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says food safety is important during the holiday season.

For more information go to:

Have You Heard About … Charity Fraud

phone-scam-fb-shutterstock_136148975Someone contacts you asking for a donation to their charity. It sounds like a group you’ve heard of, it seems real, and you want to help.

How can you tell what charity is legitimate and what’s a scam? Scammers want your money quickly. Charity scammers often pressure you to donate right away. They might ask for cash, and might even offer to send a courier or ask you to wire money. Scammers often refuse to send you information about the charity, give you details, or tell you how the money will be used. They might even thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Take your time. Tell callers to send you information by mail. For requests you get in the mail, do your research. Is it a real group? What percentage of your donation goes to the charity? Is your donation tax deductible? How do they want you to pay? Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash or wire money. Chances are, that’s a scam.
  2. Pass this information on to a friend. It’s likely that nearly everyone you know gets charity solicitations. This information could help someone else spot a possible scam.

For more information, read the detailed FTC guide, “Before Giving to a Charity.”

This above is the video “Have You Heard About … Charity Fraud.” For more information please visit

Avoiding the Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud:


Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud

Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number provided in the letter. Some of these letters have also been received via e-mail through the Internet. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim, who has demonstrated a “propensity for larceny” by responding to the invitation, to send money to the author of the letter in Nigeria in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.

Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria. In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss. Once the victim stops sending money, the perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks that they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances. While such an invitation impresses most law-abiding citizens as a laughable hoax, millions of dollars in losses are caused by these schemes annually. Some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will along with losing large sums of money. The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label “419 fraud.”

Tips for Avoiding Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud:

  • If you receive a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. Send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.
  • If you know someone who is corresponding in one of these schemes, encourage that person to contact the FBI or the U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
  • Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
  • Guard your account information carefully.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Common Frauds.” For more information, please visit