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Food Safety for Holiday Goodies!

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can personally answer your food safety questions on weekdays year-round. The Hotline receives more than 80,000 calls yearly. This toll-free telephone service helps prevent foodborne illnessby answering questions about the safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. The Hotline is staffed by food safety specialists with backgrounds in home economics, nutrition, and food technology.

The majority of calls come from consumers regarding how to properly handle their food, including food safety during power outages: food manufacturer recalls; foodborne illnesses; and the inspection of meat, poultry, and egg products.

TIPS from the USDA

Chocolate, macaroons, and gingerbread . . . how sweet are the aromas of freshly-baked cookies around the holidays. Treat your tummy to these tasty yummies, but avoid licking the spoon or the mixing bowl if the batter contains uncooked eggs. Tasting cookie or cake batter can be tempting, but remember that BAC could be lurking in those uncooked eggs.

Now grab an apron and gather the family for a holiday baking bonanza. If any of your holiday recipes call for uncooked or lightly-cooked eggs, you can modify them by cooking the eggs thoroughly. For an example, see the Quick Recipe Fix for Chocolate Mocha Mousse inside.

Delicious Delights

Quick Recipe Fix (Chocolate Mocha Mousse)

  • In a pan, melt the chocolate with the amount of liquid called for in the recipe.
  • Add the eggs to the mixture. Continue to gently heat the mixture until it reaches the safe temperature of 160° F.
  • When you've added all the ingredients, cool the mixture quickly by setting the pan in a bowl of cold water.
  • Stir mixture occasionally for about 10 minutes. Then continue to follow the rest of the directions.

Holiday Cheer!

Nothing inspires the holiday mood more than the pleasant scents of vanilla and nutmeg! If you would like to make eggnog from scratch, a tantalizing recipe is provided for you below. It starts off by cooking some of the ingredients. Or, you can make a toast using commercially prepared, pasteurized eggnog. Cheers!

Holiday Eggnog


  • 1 quart of 2% milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped
  • ground nutmeg

Note: And no, a dash of rum won't make it safe! Adding alcohol cannot be relied upon to kill bacteria.


  • Heat milk in large saucepan until hot (do not boil or scald). While milk is heating, beat together eggs and salt in a large bowl, gradually adding the sugar.
  • Gradually add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while continually stirring.
  • Transfer the mixture back to the large saucepan and cook on medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and just coats a spoon . The food thermometer should register 160° F. Stir in vanilla.
  • Cool quickly by setting pan in a bowl of ice or cold water and stirring for about 10 minutes.
  • Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled , several hours or overnight.
  • Pour into a bowl or pitcher. Fold in whipped cream. Then dust with ground nutmeg and enjoy!

Calories: 135 per 1/2 cup
Cholesterol: 120 mg. per 1/2 cup
Yield: 2 quarts

Treat Your Sweetie to Pie

(Sidebar) Surprise him or her with a delightful dessert, and seal your gift with a kiss under the mistletoe.

A luscious creamy custard pie is a perfect present. When preparing your surprise, keep these food safety tips in mind:

Custard or Cream Pies

Option #1: Cook the egg mixture for custard or cream pie fillings on the stovetop to 160° F. Then follow the recipe's directions.

Option #2: If baked in a pie shell from scratch, be sure the filling reaches 160° F.

Note: BAC can multiply quickly in moist desserts that contain dairy products, so remember the 2-Hour Rule: Don't leave perishables out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If you're not serving cream pies right away, refrigerate them.

Season's Greetings

It's the holidays! Time for decking the halls with boughs of holly and roasting chestnuts on an open fire. This season of goodwill and giving thanks is also a festive celebration of food. With so many delightful foods to choose from, it's important to keep holiday treats safe from BAC (a.k.a. bacteria). Join in the festivities and ensure a safe holiday feasting season for you, your family, and your friends by following these food safety tips.

Beware of BAC!

This holiday season, be aware of BAC and these facts:

The Invisible Enemy

You can't see, taste, or smell bacteria, but it can be on food and multiply rapidly in moist, warm conditions. If consumed, harmful bacteria can cause foodborne illness.

Be Egg-stra Cautious!

Around the holidays, people eat a variety of foods, some of which may contain uncooked or lightly-cooked eggs. But even grade A eggs with clean, uncracked shells can be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria. That's why it's important to cook eggs thoroughly to kill any bacteria that may be present.

If you have any questions or concerns about food safety during the holiday season, contact:

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555. The TTY number for the hearing impaired is (800) 256-7072

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration Food Information Line at (888) SAFE FOOD

The Fight BAC!® Web site at:

In the more than 22 years of operation, callers have asked the Hotline increasingly more sophisticated questions. Now they frequently know the names of bacteria many people had never heard of 10 or 20 years ago.

From novice cooks wondering how long to safely roast a chicken to more experienced foodhandlers asking about additives, residues, and foodborne bacteria, Hotline food safety specialists have heard it all—2 million times over.

Hotline Services Available in Spanish
Beginning in 2002, the toll-free Hotline extended its service to callers whose first language is Spanish. By touching the appropriate number at the prompt, callers will be connected to a Spanish-speaking food safety specialist who can answer their questions. Callers may also listen to more than 50 food safety messages recorded in Spanish, 24 hours a day.

The Hotline is open on Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m., Eastern Time, but closed on other Federal government holidays.
Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:
Or send Email to:

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Bertha P said...

The perfect solution is to use eggs that have been pasteurized in the shell. No more worries about raw or undercooked eggs! They sure taste better than the liquid kind -- no additives either.

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