Spring holidays are for family feasts, not pesky bacteria guests

Easter dinner table with ham, asparagus and carrot cake (Photo: iStock - VeselovaElena)

It’s a special time of year as we welcome spring and celebrate several holidays. Many families and communities will be celebrating with their Easter, Eid, and Passover traditions. Whether you’re celebrating your Easter dinner with ham, Eid lunch with lamb, or Seder meal with brisket, remember to keep food safety at the forefront.

In a season of different traditions and foods, USDA offers the same Food Safety Steps for everyone:

  • Be sure to allow plenty of time to thaw a frozen ham, lamb, or brisket with the three safe thawing methods: refrigerator, cold water, or microwave thawing.
  • FSIS recommends the following minimum internal temperatures when cooking meat and poultry items:
  • Beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops, roasts: 145 F
  • Fish and shellfish: 145 F
  • Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked): 145 F
  • Eggs: 160 F
  • Ground meats: 160 F
  • All poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing): 165 F
  • When reheating already cooked meat and poultry items that have cooled, they should be reheated to at least 165 F. USDA recommends reheating cooked meat and poultry products on the stove top, in the oven, or in a microwave. Keep in mind the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 F — a temperature where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness. To prevent entering the Danger Zone, perishable foods, such as kebabs, brisket, or ham, should be discarded if left out for longer than two hours. To prevent food waste, refrigerate or freeze perishable items within two hours, or keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze them in shallow containers, which helps leftovers cool quicker than storing them in large quantities. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days or frozen indefinitely, but quality will decrease after three to four months.

Learn more about the safe handling of beefham, and lamb products.

If you have questions about preparing meat, poultry or egg dishes, contact USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety specialist or chat live at www.ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.