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What’s for Christmas dinner?;br; Be sure it’s not only tasty, but also safe

Is it Christmas again, already? Can you believe it? Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday? Well, it seems as if it were, but here we are again hustling and bustling to get last-minute things done with the shopping, wrapping of presents, making candy and preparing that special dinner for Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Is it Christmas again, already? Can you believe it? Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday? Well, it seems as if it were, but here we are again hustling and bustling to get last-minute things done with the shopping, wrapping of presents, making candy and preparing that special dinner for Christmas Day.

With that in mind, we have to be careful of how we prepare our food. The use of a meat thermometer is important. Remember, safety first.

When choosing your holiday meat, be assured that all beef, lamb, pork, veal and poultry sold at your supermarket have been inspected for wholesomeness by the USDA or a state inspection systems. Once you’re home, refrigerate it immediately and cook or freeze fresh poultry within one or two days and fresh meats, three to five days.

There are two types of hams – fully-cooked and those that need cooking. Fully-cooked hams may be eaten cold or reheated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The cook-before-eating hams must be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present and used within seven days.

Wild game bagged by hunters obviously has not been federally or state inspected, so care must be taken to handle it safely. Parasites such as Trichinella and Toxoplasma may be present. Improper handling can cause bacterial contamination – as well as off-flavors.

Dress game in the field right after shooting. Dressed meat must be chilled as soon as possible. Keep the game cold – below 40 degrees Fahrenheit – until it can be cooked or frozen. For more information about wild game, call state or county extension offices.

For more tips on food safety, check out the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Web site at http://www.fsis.usda. gov. This site is affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and also gives information on how to check temperatures of meats with a thermometer.

So, let’s have a safe and happy holiday with family and friends. Merry Christmas to all – and to all, have a safe holiday.