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Erie County Department of Health offers recommendations
for safe food handling and food prep

ERIE COUNTY, NY – Whether you are preparing a holiday meal for yourself or dozens of guests, there are simple steps to follow to make sure that your guests walk away with a full stomach, and not a case of food poisoning. The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is sharing these holiday meal prep recommendations before Thanksgiving Day.

  • Keep foods separate. This reduces the risk of contamination from bacteria like salmonella and listeria. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread these bacteria to ready-to-eat food unless you keep them separate. Those bacteria can cause severe illness, especially for pregnant people, very young children, older adults, and people with chronic or acute medical conditions.
  • Use separate cutting boards or plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and a separate cutting board or plate for produce, bread, and other foods that won’t be cooked.
  • Wash cutting boards and food preparation surfaces completely, with soap and hot running water. Use separate cutting boards and work surfaces for meats and seafood.
  • Cook meats and eggs to the recommended safe internal temperature. Take the time to check internal temperatures with a food thermometer. Don’t rely on your eyes or touching the food with your finger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a chart with safe internal temperatures for meats, seafood, casseroles and leftovers.
  • Make sure hot foods stay hot and cold foods stay cold. The “danger zone” for bacteria growth is between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Store your leftovers within two hours in the refrigerator or freezer; use small containers for faster cooling. Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving. CDC has a cold food storage chart with recommendations to keep foods from spoiling – and when to throw those foods away.
  • Choose pasteurized eggs. When preparing a recipe that calls for raw eggs, like eggnog, hollandaise sauce and Caesar dressing. Otherwise, Salmonella and other germs from the inside and outside of eggs can make it to the final product – and your guests’ stomachs.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often using soap and running water.  
  • Think before you drink (alcohol). Many holiday celebrations include alcohol. Guests and hosts should know their limits. If hosting a dinner or party, have non-alcoholic beverages readily available. Never drink and drive a vehicle, and make sure guests get home safely with a designated non-drinking driver, a cab or ride-share service, or have a plan for guests to stay overnight.
  • Pregnant people are at higher risk for food-borne illness. Pregnant people should avoid foods or drinks made with raw or unpasteurized milk, including soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk like queso fresco, Brie, goat cheeses and feta. Raw or unpasteurized juices and ciders pose a risk. Pregnant people should avoid eggnog unless they know it is fully pasteurized and does not contain alcohol.
  • Turkey Day Myths 

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shared three common myths about preparing and cooking turkeys. Did you know that the USDA also has a hotline for help with meat, poultry and processed egg products? Call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). They have heard every type of turkey question, and they are ready for your call.

  • (Turkey) Safety First offers advice on turkey preparation, from thawing to serving to storing.

    Tips from Upstate NY Poison Center

    Do not leave alcoholic beverages, marijuana edibles, vape pens, or cigarettes out for curious children to find.

    Remind guests to put their purses and bags out of reach of children. Guests often bring medications. Offer them a safe place for storage that is up high and out of sight of children.

    Add Poison Control to your phone: (1-888-222-1222). Highly-trained poison specialists answer calls 24/7.

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