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Each year, 48 million people eat something that causes foodborne illness. During the holiday season, food is an essential part of the celebration, and popular holiday foods can harbor microbes that make people sick if not stored, thawed, or cooked correctly. Good handwashing practices and following the food safety experts’ recommendations for handling and preparing food is essential to a safe holiday eating experience. Knowing how long those leftovers will last in the refrigerator can also help prevent food poisoning.

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1. Food Bacteria Basics

Salmonella causes about 70% of food poisoning outbreaks. According to food safety research, salmonella exists in a variety of cooked and raw foods. Raw poultry also contains Campylobacter, and other types of bacteria — E. coli and Yersinia — are present in some meat. Even fresh produce may harbor Listeria and harmful germs such as Salmonella and E.coli. Improperly home-canned goods can cause botulism, although this is rare.

The good news is, proper food handling and clean preparation surfaces can prevent most types of bacteria from ruining a holiday feast. According to food safety guidelines, the “danger zone” for foods is 40 to 140 degrees, the temperature at which illness-causing bacteria flourish. Refrigerate cooked foods within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing.

food bacteria salmonella urfinguss / Getty Images
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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.