March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Whether you're bringing a holiday dish to the party or preparing the holiday feast yourself, it's important to practice safe food handling and keep in mind the needs of those who may be vulnerable to food poisoning.
"While you should always practice safe food handling, some guests might be particularly vulnerable to food poisoning, such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems," said Academy spokesperson Libby Mills. "This may also mean taking special precautions and keeping certain high-risk foods off the menu."
Food poisoning can affect anyone who eats food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or other substances, but those certain groups of people are more susceptible to food poisoning and can be at far greater risk of developing serious or even life threatening health problems.
According to Mills, four simple steps may help significantly reduce your risk of food poisoning during the holiday season:
- Wash hands often
- Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs
- Cook to proper temperatures; and
- Refrigerate promptly at 40°F or below.
Take special care during the holidays to ensure that vulnerable guests avoid high-risk foods, such as raw or undercooked eggs, raw or unpasteurized dairy products, raw fish or shellfish, raw or rare meat or undercooked poultry.
"You might be surprised to learn that French toast, tiramisu, some puddings and even eggnog are on the list of less safe food options for those vulnerable to food poisoning. So be sure to carefully plan your menu and shopping list this holiday season to avoid certain foods if necessary," Mills said.