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Ring in the Season with New Food Safety Traditions

Provided by Barb Fuller, Human Sciences Specialist, Nutrition and Wellness


Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry! It is also the time to break some possibly dangerous holiday food handling traditions.

Reckless Thawing

Old Habit:  Thawing meats and other frozen foods on the counter.

New tradition:  Frozen meats, soups and casseroles should be thawed in the refrigerator. Place a tray or pan under raw meats in the refrigerator and place on the bottom shelf to reduce that chance of raw meat juices dripping onto other foods. Meats can also be thawed in a sink of cool water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Keep the meat wrapped during the thawing process.

Graze All Day

 Old Habit:  Leaving food on the counter for people to graze on all day.

 New tradition:  Perishable foods such as cooked meats, potatoes, vegetables, soups and most salads should not be at room temperature for more than two hours. Get them refrigerated as soon as possible after the meal.  This includes the homemade pumpkin pie.

Lounging Leftovers

 Old Habit:  Keeping leftovers too long. How many times have those leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and gravy been in and out of the refrigerator for reheating?

 New tradition:  Remember the ‘4 Day Throw Away’ slogan for leftovers. If you don’t think you can eat them within four days, then portion into small containers and freeze on day one.  (Don’t wait until day 4 to freeze them.) More information at A 4-Day Throw Away app is also available.

 Harmful Hotstuff

Old Habit:  Mishandling hot food such as a large quantity of hot leftovers or a food prepared in advance (such as a pot of soup or chili made a day in advance). The harmful mistake occurs when the hot food is placed directly in the refrigerator or when the food is allowed to sit on the counter to cool prior to refrigeration. When a large quantity of hot food is placed in the refrigerator it warms up the entire refrigerator and the cooling process is very slow. Food can actually be at dangerous temperatures for bacterial growth (between 40°F – 140°F) while in the refrigerator. If food is cooled on the counter it again is at the ideal temperature for bacterial growth.

 New tradition:  A large quantity (roughly a gallon or more) of hot food should be ‘super cooled’ prior to refrigeration. Place the pot of hot food in a sink full of ice and stir the food every 5 – 10 minutes. When the food has cooled to room temperature it can be refrigerated. When refrigerating think about putting food in shallow pans rather than deep pans to speed cooling.


ISU Extension and Outreach Contact:

Contact:  Barb Fuller, Human Sciences Specialist, Nutrition and Wellness

712-789-2449  [email protected]

ISU AnswerLine 800- 262-3804 (Iowa)   515-296-5883 (others)